German Chancellor gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac are proposing that Europe lift itss arms embargo against China, imposed in 1989 after the crackdown on China's democracy movement at Tienanmen Square.
The two argue that the ban is out of date and does not fit the pattern of improving relations between Western Europe and China.
However, the move seems to be prompted by political expediency and commercial opportunism. It would enable the sale of quiet German submarines and advanced French Mirage fighters to a weapons-hungry China, a country that is one of the major sources of tension in the East Asia region.
Isn't it a fundamental European policy not to sell weapons in hot spots around the world?
That East Asia is a hot spot is beyond doubt: China is aiming some 500 missiles at Taiwan and is increasing its arsenal. The July 2003 US Defense Department Study on the military power of China calls the region a potential powder keg and clearly suggests that China's policy of threatening Taiwan is the root cause of this tension. Quotes from the study include "Preparing for a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait is the primary driver for China's military modernization," and "China is developing advanced information technology and long-range precision strike capabilities, and looking for ways to target and exploit the perceived weaknesses of technologically superior adversaries."
The phrase "technologically superior adversaries" refers to the US. If Europe sells weapons to China, they will very likely be used against Europe's ally, the US -- not a desirable situation.
But these are three other important reasons that Europe should not proceed with this unsavory idea.
First, China may be progressing economically, but human rights and democracy have not benefitted from this progress.
On the contrary, China is still one of the most totalitarian regimes in the world. Human rights organizations still document widespread violations of human rights, torture in prisons and application of the death penalty.
The second reason is the continued occupation of Tibet by China. If Europe wants to go beyond lip service on this issue, it must emphasize that this is a major issue to be resolved before relations can be improved. What has been perpetrated in Tibet by the Chinese is nothing less than a holocaust.
The third reason is Beijing's perpetual threats against a free and democratic Taiwan.
It is ironic that the leaders of a repressive regime are feted in Paris by Chirac while the democratically-elected president of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian (
Isn't there something wrong with this picture?
European governments -- and the US administration for that matter -- still seem oblivious to the fact that Taiwan is a democratic nation that beat tremendous odds in overcoming the authoritarian regime of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
The KMT was a party to the civil war which ravaged China from the 1920s through the 1940s.
Taiwan, a Japanese colony during that period, was not a party to that civil war. Now the Taiwanese people themselves a free and democratic people being held hostage to the civil war.
It is clear that the "one China" policy, not the ban on arms sales, is out of date. Perhaps Schroeder and Chirac should focus their attention on analyzing what is so terribly wrong with their present policy and work towards normalization of relations with Taiwan.
Mei-chin Chen is the editor of Taiwan Communique and writes from the Hague, the Netherlands.
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