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Press review Emmanuel Macron China Human rights

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French weekly magazines review 14 January 2018

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The French economy seems to be doing better, even if the unemployment rate remains dangerously high. How effective will the proposed law on immigration and asylum be? And what do French people really want?


President Emmanuel Macron features on three front pages this week.

Le Point has him emerging, genie-style, from a magic lamp, with the question "Is France really doing better?"

You can guess that the answer is a complex mix of yeses and nos.

Yes, economic growth seems to be firmly reestablished at around the two percent level, which is not bad. French producers are at their most optimistic since 2007. But unemployment remains a scourge, at close to 10 percent of the workforce. And the public debt is still 97 percent of what France can produce. Which is huge.

The well-off are laughing. The top index at the Paris Stock Exchange saw the country's 40 richest companies get nine percent richer in the course of last year. And three-quarters of American investors think France is a good place to stack the cash, compared to just 25 percent in 2013.

We're all a lot more optimistic, apparently, marching behind our brave, bright, young president towards the best of all possible worlds.

But the public debt won't suddenly vanish and employers say they are finding it hard to recruit the qualified staff they need to expand.

Yes, says the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, interviewed by Le Point, the Macron presidency has brought a new wave of optimism, a renewal of national energy. But, Sloterdijk darkly reminds us, in France the guillotine is never far away.

Closed doors at the home of human rights

One topic which could cost Emmanuel Macron his hair, if not his head, is the proposed law on immigration and asylum.

This gets a sombre-looking president, his face wreathed in barbed wire, onto the front page of Le Nouvel Observateur, with the headline "Welcome to the home of human rights".

The Nobel Prize winning novelist JMG Le Clézio says France has failed the latest wave of migrants in what he calls "an insufferable denial of our shared humanity".

The historian Patrick Boucheron warns that the current French attitude to migrants, and the motivation for the new law, is hypocritical. Our leaders say one thing and legislate for another. Boucheron warns that no government ever lasts long if it's based on lies, ignorance or a refusal to face reality.

The price of silence

Speaking of which, the main story in the weekly satirical paper Le Canard Enchaîné, looks back at Macron's recent visit to China, an effort which seems to have been crowned with enormous commercial success, not least an order for 184 Airbus planes for a cool 18 billion euros, but at the cost of a deafening silence from the French leader on the Chinese human rights record.

A chance missed, laments Le Canard, since Donald Trump couldn't find China on a map, of China; Theresa May has been Brexited off the world stage; Mutti Merkel has other fish to fry.

Our man Makelong, as the Chinese media apparently call the French president, had a chance to make a real impact. And the commercial risk would not have been that great - France still coughs up 30 billion euros more for Chinese goods every year than they spend on its planes, perfumes and Dom Pérignon.

What the French want

L'Express publishes an opinion poll revealing what French people under 40 want.

It finds that:

  • 83 percent of those questioned are against capitalism;
  • most of them think school should teach values, not train people for jobs;
  • they are globally in favour of medically assisted procreation, of euthanasia and the return of the death penalty.

Clearly, we live in interesting times!

Unpalatable truths about the food industry

In the wake of the Lactalis contaminated baby-milk scandal, Marianne looks at the various ways in which we are being poisoned by everyday foods and household products.

Pizzas, pills, beauty products, cleaning fluids are just some of the suspects rounded up. We've known about the dangers for decades apparently but our politicians have been too scared to say anything, for fear of annoying the industrial giants who provide jobs and tax revenue in exchange for the dodgy products which are shortening our lives.

Post-Weinstein Carmen

On its inside pages, Le Point notes that there's a production of Bizet's opera Carmen currently on offer at the Teatro Maggio in the Italian city of Florence.

It's a post-Weinstein version of the classic story. Which means that, at the end, it's Carmen who kills Don José and not the other way around. Says the director, Leo Muscato, "in this age of violence against women, it is out of the question to applaud the murder of Carmen".

Far from applauding, Le Point finds the gesture stupid, cowardly and uncivilised.

It's easy to see that a feminist rewriting of some of the best-loved classics of Western art could lead to complications. We can expect a new series of letters in Le Monde.