CNN  — 

French President Emmanuel Macron might have hoped to focus this week on what may prove the biggest domestic test of his leadership, as France’s Constitutional Council prepares to rule Friday on whether or not he can push ahead with controversial pension reforms. 

Instead, he finds himself grappling with international blowback from last week’s friendly visit to China – and in particular from comments that have made him rather unpopular both in Washington DC and with some of his allies in Europe.

On his flight home from Beijing, Macron gave an interview to POLITICO Europe. In it, he said that Europe must not become “just America’s followers” when asked about the prospect of China invading Taiwan.

“The question Europeans need to answer … is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan? No. The worse thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the US agenda and a Chinese overreaction,” Macron said, adding that Europe must not get “caught up in crises that are not ours, which prevents it from building its strategic autonomy.”

Strategic autonomy is a Brussels term that refers to the EU having an independent geopolitical policy, which relies in part on the bloc being able to become a third power and not get squashed between the US and China. However, the China hawks, typically in Eastern Europe, have always been skeptical of anything that puts clear water between Europe and the US, who they see as the ultimate protectors of European territory through NATO.

Macron has since attempted to downplay his comments, saying on Wednesday that France was “for the status quo in Taiwan” and that position “has not changed.” But the hawks have already hit back.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said: “Instead of building strategic autonomy from the United States, I propose a strategic partnership with the United States.” Lithuania’s foreign minister tweeted “We are capable of defending Europe without Chinese help. Instead of requesting assistance we should be projecting our strengths.”

Eastern European diplomats have been less subtle. One said that Macron is “simply tone deaf to everything happening in the world. No wonder Macroning has become a synonym of bullshitting without any result.” Another said they “cannot understand” Macron, that his visit to Beijing and remarks on Taiwan were “not helpful” and that Europe should engage with countries that “value democracy and the rule of law” over China. 

Macron’s trip was further undermined when Beijing performed military rehearses encircling Taiwan the day after he left China.