Monday, March 07, 2005

EU and the China Arms Embargo

Difficult to know exactly what motivates this French-led desire of the EU to sell arms to China, beyond the ongoing wish to oppose the US for the sake of it, and the wish to get on side with the Chinese government in the hope they will buy more Airbuses (5 and counting, so far).

At any rate, the repeated signals to China regarding Europe´s desires (see Is that a Gun in your Pocket?, and the downplaying of US concerns about the move, don´t give any sense that the EU has a strategy of any sort on the matter. The sabre-rattling and dangers of war looming menacingly around Taiwan and North Korea leave European politicians cold, when set beside the chance to cash in on China´s growing economy.

Some American commentators wonder whether Europoliticians have "lost their moral compass." This blog doubts they ever had such an instrument to start with. A moral compass, in Brussels, is useful only for showing the other fellow exactly where he´s going wrong.

But regarding this particular issue of selling arms to China, a compass of some sort is surely called for - Realpolitik and raison d´etat may be splendid for oiling the wheels of weapons-deals and aircraft sales, but if the cost is falling out of step with the US' regional strategy, you have to ask yourself whether it's really worth it. The two reasons often quoted: if we sell the Chinese arms, maybe they won't get round to making their own, and "it's only a symbolic sop to Chinese amour-propre" - are pathetic beyond the need for mockery.

The US regional strategy tries to balance engagement with China with the overall desire for regional stability, guarantees for Taiwan and human rights. Bush's repeated eloquence in the cause of freedom and democracy set an unambiguous direction from his moral compass. For Europe to sell the Chinese arms at this juncture might make sense if it would further strategic interests, but, beyond anti-US posturing and increased Chinese income, no European interests could possibly be furthered by selling arms to China. So why this bizarre determination behind the arms-lifting initiative? Does it really boil down to the childish ego thing, of wanting to spite the US and show that Europe still matters?

It's all a bit rum, the blog reckons. It would be a lot better if the EU, instead of agitating to sell arms to China, started buying some more themselves.
The China Arms Embargo: Sketching Out the Next Trans-Atlantic Crisis - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE

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