Flag of the Chinese People's Liberation Army
Despite cracks in the NATO-EU’s de facto arms embargo on Russia and hints that the EU was considering lifting its ban on weapons sales to China, EU officials confirmed this week that such a move was not going to be considered.
EU officials cited human rights and political pressure from China concerning the nomination of Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Prize as the primary reasons for the resumption of the embargo, although the EU’s foreign relations chief, Catherine Ashton, publicly supported lifting the ban.
What is interesting is that all of the justifications for not selling weapons to China are the same for not giving guns to Russia. Russia, however, has made significant political inroads with several European nations — particularly France, which authorized a French company, shipbuilder DCNS, to build four high tech helicopter carriers for Russia.
Nonetheless, China’s foreign track record and its booming, increasingly open economy argues in it’s favor: it hasn’t used military force outside its borders in decades and it is already too economically interdependent with EU/ NATO countries to confront them directly. So, other than last year’s quarrels with the Nobel Committee, why is the EU still not selling weapons to China?
Leaving aside the moral dimension, any change on the embargo could also harm EU-US relations.
Asked by EUobserver on Tuesday if the US is reconsidering its position on China arms sales, the State Department pointed to comments made by a senior US diplomat, John Hillen, in 2005 as still being relevant. Mr Hillen at the time said that lifting the embargo would “raise a major obstacle to future US defence co-operation with Europe.”
Well, that’s that.