Thursday 20 September 2012

The very simple reason why the EU arms embargo on China is going nowhere

As an example of the political differences between the countries that make up the EU and the government of the People's Republic of  China, you couldn't do much better than the cancellation of the press conference due to be held today at the end of the latest round of EU-PRC trade talks. At least according to the BBC, it seems that the Chinese side refused to attend unless they could hand-pick the journalists allowed to attend. This, if true, indicates the degree to which China's government would like to avoid answering questions now or ever about the present political problems besetting the People's Republic, or about the economic statistics announced today which have even me believing that we are now seeing a significant slow-down in the PRC's economic growth (along with the rest of the world).

Another reason, of course, why the PRC's representatives at the talk would have wished to avoid having to answer (or not answer) questions from journalists that they did not pre-approve is that the talks were a wash for them. On the two big issues that the PRC government had wanted to see concessions on - the EU arms embargo and recognition by the EU as a fully-fledged market economy - the EU's representatives have remained adamant.

Naturally Wen Jiabao will not recognise the root cause of this intransigence. Despite what officials in Beijing might say, it is neither due to a 'cold war mentality' nor is it based on 'prejudice'. It's root cause is very simple: the People's Republic of China is not a democracy. It is a totalitarian state which, in as much as it has allies, has aligned itself with countries antagonistic to the interests of Europe's democracies, such as the Assad regime and North Korea. It is an autocracy that directly threatens democratic neighbours in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and elsewhere with military force.

Not only is China undemocratic, but it is an undemocratic state where selective application of a range of laws that can make doing business in China twice as expensive for foreign companies as it is for local ones. This may be either by accident or by design, but in neither case does it deserve recognition as a full market economy.

In the late 1970's the governments of both the states of Europe and the United States were willing to make a deal with the devil. They judged, perhaps correctly, that they had more to gain in supporting the PRC's development as a military power on the southern flank of the country which most directly threatened them - the USSR - than they did in supporting a totalitarian state emerging from the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution.

By 1989, however, this had changed. It was not the cold war which was nearing its end that prompted the sanctions in 1989, nor was it prejudice against the Chinese people to whom Europe and America had previously sold weapons. Instead the USSR's hold on Central and Eastern Europe had crumbled, and, much more pressingly, the true nature of the Chinese Communist Party's rule had been made clear in the blood-bath of Tiananmen Square.

The situation has not changed. Selling arms to the PRC whilst it remains in the hands of people willing to turn heavy weapons on their own citizens, who target the free society across the Taiwan strait with more than a thousand surface-to-surface missiles, who censor opinions and arbitrarily arrest, detain, and torture their critics and their families, would be selling them the rope with which to hang ourselves and our friends.

[Picture: A monument to the innocent dead of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, Wroclaw, Poland. Via Wiki]

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