Sat, Mar 19, 2005 - Page 8 News List

EU must not appease Beijing's aggression

By Gerrit Van Der Wees

In January, the Allies commemorated the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Russian troops. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder did an exemplary job in leading the commemorations, finding the right words of atonement for the horrors perpetrated by the German Nazis.

After World War II, the general cry in devastated Germany was nie wieder -- "never again" will we allow a dictatorial regime to push us towards the precipice of so much destruction and human suffering.

It is thus perplexing that Schroeder's Germany is pushing ahead in the direction of another Holocaust, this one in far-away Asia. We are referring to Germany's leading role in the EU's proposed lifting of the arms embargo against China.

China today has many similarities with pre-World War II Germany: A strong economy and a booming military-industrial complex, strong nationalism, a feeling of having been wronged, and an expansionist view vis-a-vis its smaller neighbors.

The Nazis annexed neighboring countries while the rest of Western Europe looked the other way, and tried to appease Germany. The nadir was British prime minister Neville Chamberlain's trip to Munich in September 1938, and his proclamation of "peace in our time." Germany occupied all of Czechoslovakia just months later, and then invaded Poland.

Just like the British and French in those days, Europe today insufficiently realizes that China's recent movements strongly indicate that it intends to use force against a small, peaceful and democratic neighbor, Taiwan.

With its "one China" unification policy, China is using precisely the same methods regarding Taiwan as Hitler's Germany did with Austria back in 1938.

In the past few years, China's military budget has grown by between 12 percent and 18 percent a year -- while the budgets of all other nations in the region have remained stable or even decreased. China has purchased advanced Mig aircraft, Kilo-class submarines and Sovremenny destroyers from Russia.

Just this past Monday, the rubber-stamp National Peoples Congress passed an "Anti-Secession" Law, mandating the use of force by the People's Liberation Army in case Taiwan wants to remain free and democratic instead of "reuniting" with a Communist China of which it was never a part, even for one day.

All this should have given the EU pause for reflection. But the EU seems to be charging ahead toward lifting the arms embargo anyway. This is all the more peculiar, because it was the EU which accused US President George W. Bush of charging ahead with the Iraq invasion without proper thought of what he would do afterwards. Now the EU seems to be making a similar mistake.

What would be the right way forward? The EU should immediately stop its headlong rush into lifting the arms embargo. Trade relations between the EU and China can proceed equally well without lifting the embargo. China can be a respected nation and a full member of the world community without any arms purchases, from Europe or elsewhere.

But the EU can do more: It can use its new-found leverage with China to impress on the leaders in Beijing that peaceful coexistence between China and Taiwan as two friendly neighboring states is the solution that will win Beijing respect around the world.

The EU could start by building up direct contacts with the democratically elected government of Taiwan and working toward normalization of relations with the island. In the context of the UN, it could start by urging an end to Taiwan's isolation and work towards the nation's full membership to the world body on the basis of the right to self-determination in the UN Charter.

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