EU Divided Over Chinese Arms Embargo

  
Britain
is on a collision course with the European Union over the sale of arms
to China. Since the Beijing government crackdown on protestors in
Tiananmen Square in 1989, EU member states have been banned from selling
goods that could be used by the Chinese military.

China’s new J-20 stealth fighter roars along the runway and takes to the
skies, the maiden test-flight of a plane designed to rival the United
States’ radar-eluding aircraft.

Images of the flight, leaked on the Internet and subsequently confirmed
as genuine by the Beijing government, have focused attention on China’s
military modernization.

The European Union banned the sale of military technology to China
following the crackdown on dissidents in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in
1989.

But Alexander Neill of analyst group the Royal United Services Institute
says China’s growing financial influence in Europe is starting to tell.

“EU member states certainly feel pressured by China given the economic
contagion, which seems to be spreading through the EU at the moment,”
Neill said. “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.”

Beijing has just signed a series of multi-billion-dollar deals with
European companies. China says it is also prepared to buy up to $7.9
billion of Spanish government debt at a time of heightened fears over
the future of the euro currency.

Many EU leaders, including the bloc’s foreign affairs chief Catherine
Ashton, have suggested it is time the arms export ban to China was
revised.

Britain, while welcoming its own slice of Chinese investment, is at odds
with EU countries that want to repeal the embargo.”The U.K.’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 stated.

Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Washington earlier this month and
sought to calm fears over China’s investment in its military. He says
China does not engage in arms races or pose a military threat to any
country and will never seek hegemony or pursue an expansionist policy.

Despite military spending estimated at $78 billion in 2010, Alexander
Neill says China’s armed forces still lag behind. “But there are areas
of concern where China has managed to play catch-up with the United
States,” he said. “Particularly in its high-tech and asymmetric
capabilities.”

China’s J-20 stealth fighter is an example of such high-tech advances.