Friday, February 4, 2011

Britain at Odds With Europe Over Ban on Selling Arms to China

« British Prime Minister David Cameron (right) talks with President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy. Britain and the EU are divided over resuming arms sales to China.
(Getty Images)
Britain is clashing with the European Union as Europe edges toward repealing the EU’s ban on selling military technology to China.
If European nations can sell weapons to Russia, as France did in December with a €1 billion assault ship deal, then why not to China’s army too? This is the question a growing number of European Union policymakers are asking as Beijing’s influence with EU member states increases.
The issue is significant because the EU banned weapons technology sales to China in 1989, after Beijing’s violent crackdown on dissidents in Tiananmen Square. But with China’s investments helping to prop up several European states, a growing number of continental EU countries want to reconsider the embargo. And on January 27, China urged the EU to lift the ban in order to boost EU-China relations.
Alexander Neill of the Royal United Services Institute said, “EU member states certainly feel pressured by China given the economic contagion which seems to be spreading through the EU at the moment. Many national leaders, I am sure, will think twice about how they engage the Chinese on investment, which is essentially bailing them out of elements of their economic doldrums.”
Last month, an unnamed EU official told reporters that the nations opposed to the embargo had gathered enough momentum to kill the ban by the end of the year.
But Britain, in spite of having accepted some Chinese investments, remains alongside the U.S. in commitment to the restriction, and is isolating itself from Europe to a degree over the issue.
“The UK’s position remains exactly as it has been over the last few years, which is now is not the right time to lift the ban,” Neill said.
Despite Britain’s concerns, in the short term EU-China relations will improve as the two sides work toward counterbalancing American dominance and replacing the current U.S.-dominated global economic framework with a multipolar model.