The EU wants to sell weapons to China. It is also true that China wants very much to buy weapons from the EU. China is signaling very strongly that they are the catalyst for this situation. Having raised their military budget, China is telling the world they have cash and are looking for sellers. Of course, their options are pretty much limited to the EU. President Bush is not likely to sell China any weapons, everyone selling who isn’t the EU suffers from one of two problems, they are not respectable enough or their technology isn’t good enough. Surely China could go on buying from Russia, but this push to do business with EU defense suppliers belies the assertion by this article that China gets all the high-tech weapons they want from Russia. It seems hard to believe that if Russia is able to supply China with everything it wants, this move to cozy up to Europe’s defense industry would be very much out of place. Certainly China and the EU enjoy good commercial trading relations. They do not need to use military purchasing to improve those relations. I think that one part of the NewsMax story, in spite of its other weaknesses, and this Guardian article elucidates the issues at hand. Newsmax points out:
Both the United States and the European Union banned arms sales to China following its June 4, 1989, crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protesters.
By trying to lift this particular ban, China is asking the West to signal that Tiananmen Square is no longer the modern defining event in China’s relations with the West. Additionally, as we see in the Guardian article, China wants to do this while suffering no loss in its position as relates to Taiwan. With democracy flourishing throughout the Middle East, China is asking the EU to turn its back on a potential full recognized and functional democracy. If the US wishes to exert influence in this situation, this is exactly where our efforts must be aimed. Rather than make the issue keeping weapons out of the hands of Beijing, democracy must be the issue. China must be made to pay a price commensurate with the blow they dealt democracy in 1989. Surely no one will credibly argue that a better armed China is a threat to world peace in the same way the North Korea or Iran are. China’s long history of isolationism, especially military isolationism, should serve to quell any worries about China using these new weapons to launch attacks. The EU can gain more relevance in the world by getting China to soften or change its Taiwan policy than they ever will selling weapons to China or objecting to US military actions. If the EU wants to try and act as a balance to US power they have a unique window of opportunity, an opportunity that doesn’t come around every day. I suspect that in the end the Europeans will be put off by the Chinese statement relayed in the Guardian article, after all they won’t want China to lose face. By letting China take Taiwan off the table through blunt public statements in the European press the EU will confirm to many in the US and around the world that for all their talk of diplomacy and peaceful promotion of democracy the EU is incapable of doing the hard work necessary to make the sort of positive changes we are now witnessing in the Middle East.