Keep the embargo

It’s not too often I get to advocate keeping embargos, but in the case of EU arms export to China it isn’t too hard to see why an embargo would be preferable to trade.

The issue of the EU arms embargo on China, imposed after the tragic events in 1989 on Tiananmen Square where Chinese troops killed more than 2000 protesting civilians, was brought into the light when French president Jaques Chirac smelled an opportunity for French exports, and furiously worked together with his now dethroned ally Gerhard Schröder (then German chancellor) to get the embargo lifted. The fact that the very oppression that motivated the creation of the embargo still persists wasn’t something that those two gentlemen felt particularly troubling. Neither, apparently, was the then new Chinese law allowing an invasion of Taiwan. This was one year ago. Luckily enough, other countries weren’t as eager as President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder to sacrifice the freedom of 23 million Taiwanese people for some sweet arms export euros. The embargo is still in place.

This bothers the Chinese, of course, who would not only like to be able to put credible pressure on Taiwan to “rejoin”, but who would also like to be able to take the next step and become a true superpower (they still have some way to go). I’m sure a lot of Europeans would see this “balancing” of American power as a good thing. Who’s doing the counter-balancing is apparently not that important. Besides, isn’t China pretty decent these days anyway? (Hint: thousands of political prisoners might disagree)

The EU Observer reports that China has brought the issue up again, and encourage the EU to get rid of the embargo in order to “improve relations”. I’m sure matters will be discussed at the upcoming ASEM meeting, where European and Asian leaders meet. The EU leaders should listen to the Japanese, the Taiwanese, various human rights groups, and to a report to the European Parliament; they should not listen to Jaques Chirac. Keep the embargo. We may find the opposite route regrettable.