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French press review 18 June 2018

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With the sacking of party vice-president Virginie Calmels, is the French conservative Republicans party on the way down the gurgler? The boys in Beijing have been reacting to US President Trump's decision to slap a huge import tax on 50 billion dollars worth of Chinese goods. And who, according to the American intellectual Francis Fukuyama, is a menace to the free world in which we live?


All is not sweetness and light in the bowels of the French right-wing Republican party. Recently, party vice-president Virginie Calmels has been criticising her boss, Laurent Wauquiez, saying he was defending a personal point of view and was not doing enough to re-unite the party in the wake of recent electoral setbacks.

Yesterday, Virginie Calmels was sacked for her trouble.

Over the past two weeks, Calmels has complained of Wauquiez's "authoritarian" leadership and his shift of the party towards the extreme right.

"He thinks he got himself elected just by being there," Calmels told the Parisien newspaper. Adding "I don't share that vision".

She has been replaced by Jean Leonetti, mayor of the southern city of Antibes.

Shock! Horror! Republicans ravaged by revolt!

Right-wing daily Le Figaro is taking the story very seriously. And rightly so!

Sixty-four percent of the 22,000 Le Fiagro readers who voted in this morning's opinion poll are convinced that the row between Wauquiez and Calmels could lead to the implosion of the mainstream conservative party.

Party veteran Nadine Morano, always ready to pour oil on any burning issue if it gets her a mention in despatches, says this is the latest outbreak of the syndrome of the number 2 who wants to be in charge, without the trouble of getting elected. "Her job was to support the leader," tweets Morano of Calmels, "not to destroy the Republican party."

As the storm raged in the conservative tea-cup yesterday, one un-named supporter of Laurent Wauquiez uttered the immortal observation that "there is no place in the Republican movement for those who are obsessed with their own navels". At least that has the benefit of clarity.

Beijing fires a salvo in US trade battle

Perhaps more seriously, Le Monde looks at how Beijing has been reacting to the US decision to slap a huge import tax on Chinese goods worth nearly 50 billion dollars.

President Trump has told his trade people to draw up a list of over 800 types of products, currently imported from China, which the US leader believes can be produced just as cheaply in America. From next month onwards, the Chinese versions will face a 25 per cent surcharge. Washington has attempted to justify the new duties by saying it need to re-balance America's trade deficit.

The Chinese have done their own bit of re-balancing, promising to retaliate with import taxes at the same level on US products. Beijing has notably targeted agricultural imports, especially soya, with a view to hitting Trump's most enthusiastic supporters in rural areas.

Fukuyama thumps Trump

Le Monde publishes an interview with Francis Fukuyama, the American intellectual who famously announced "the end of history".

Talking to the centrist French daily about his latest book, on national identity in a world without borders, Fukuyama has this to say about Donald Trump:

"He's a terrible president . . . the first American leader to have denied democracy and human rights as worthy objectives for the United States and the rest of the world.

"He's at war with America's democratic allies while admiring despots like Russia's Putin, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Egypt's Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi and China's Xi Jinping. He congratulated Putin and Sissi for winning fraudulent elections. He praised Xi's decision to do away with presidential term limits.

"He's against the rule of law when it prevents him from doing what he wants," Fukuyama tells Le Monde, "he has deepened racial, social and cultural divisions in the United States . . . Black athletes who contradict him are wrong . . . white supremacists who agree with him are right."

Fukuyama ends his critique by saying that Trump, far from his supposed role as leader of global democracy, is a menace to the free world in which we live.