July 19, 2004
By Peter Brookes
The French and the Ger mans are trying to stick it to us again.
No, not over Iraq - over China.
The 25-nation European Union (EU), led by Paris and Berlin, is
giving serious consideration to lifting the post-Tiananmen Square
arms embargo against Beijing.
Even though we've made our objections perfectly clear, from
President Bush on down. (America's top Pacific allies, Japan and
Australia, have also protested.)
This means that at some point in the future, the weapons of
European allies may be used against American forces in the Pacific
over the defense of Taiwan, Japan or even South Korea.
There are several reasons why ending the sanctions is
* Human Rights. Both the U.S. and EU imposed the embargo after
the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, where 3,000 peaceful democracy
demonstrators died at the hands of China's People's Liberation Army
(PLA). Beijing has yet to come clean on this matter, and
human-rights problems abound. Just in 2004, Chinese security
services harassed and detained the justice-seeking mothers of
Tiananmen Square victims, political activists and Internet
Lifting the ban would send the wrong signal to other repressive
regimes. China's human-rights record certainly doesn't merit a
Moreover, China's army still has a domestic-security mission,
meaning EU arms could be used to suppress political dissent across
China, especially in Buddhist Tibet and Muslim Xinjiang (western
* Military Threat. China is engaged in a major military buildup
that goes far beyond its defensive needs. In the next few years,
China will develop real military options for muscling its
democratic neighbor Taiwan (which Beijing considers a renegade
province). Down the road, China looks toward dominating Japan and
Southeast Asia, too.
And who really knows where Beijing will come down if South and
North Korea come to blows? (The last Korean War might be a good
indicator . . .)
Ultimately, the PLA's long-term, military modernization game
plan is to deter, delay or deny U.S. intervention in any Asian
conflict involving China. Beyond that, the PLA seeks to ultimately
replace America as the preeminent military power in the
* Weapons Proliferation. China is a notorious weapons
proliferator - from weapons of mass destruction to small arms. Its
record on export controls is abysmal. Sensitive European technology
will surely fall into the hands of China's roguish friends: Iran,
North Korea, Syria and Burma.
So why are the Europeans doing this?
Two reasons: To balance American global power and - tah dah! -
to make money.
Paris and Berlin have long pushed for a multipolar world, in
which the United States' overwhelming power is balanced (read:
weakened) by other power centers (i.e., poles) such as the EU,
China and Russia.
In practice, France and Germany, instead of spreading power,
intend to align these other poles in a political axis against
Making China more powerful in Asia will stretch U.S. resources
(and perhaps resolve) and distract Washington from its interests in
Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere, leaving Paris and Berlin to
call the shots.
The EU leaders' other goal here is to compete with the United
States in the world's arms market. The sheer quality of U.S. arms
makes it tough to compete globally, so the best strategy is to go
places where the Americans aren't, such as China - which is a $5
billion per year cash (arms) cow.
The Chinese, who applaud the EU's policy shift, are hungry for
advanced European submarine, aviation, space and missile systems
and technology. (Again, think about the possibility of secondary
weapons proliferation to Iran, Syria and North Korea.) Beijing
would also like to drive a wedge into the trans-Atlantic
The United States welcomes China's peaceful integration into the
international community as an open and free society through
commerce, tourism, academic exchanges and official dialogue. These
activities maximize the free world's efforts to encourage positive
political and social change for 1.3 billion Chinese.
But we must also consider the dark side of China's rise - its
military buildup - and the effect on regional and global peace and
The EU's decision to change course on China is counterproductive
and counterintuitive, but not surprising: Europe's security
interests in Asia are minimal and, hey, there's cash to be
But if the EU goes ahead, our government should stop the flow of
U.S. military technology to European firms.
In the end, the EU's folly will further increase the
trans-Atlantic divide, give an imprimatur to dismal human-rights
records everywhere and increase the likelihood of conflict in the
Pacific, which is no one's interest - not even the distant
Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow.
First appeared in the New York Post
The French and the Germans are trying to stick it to us again. No, not over Iraq — over China.
Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
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