- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2004

Last week, French President Jacques Chirac used the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao as an opportunity to call for an end to the EU’s ban on selling arms to the Communist state. During the meetings in Paris, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said, “Our feeling is that the embargo is out of date as relations between Europe and China improve.” Referring to China’s role in the world, he added that Beijing is “a privileged partner and a responsible one.” The French foreign minister neglected to mention that the original reason for the embargo had nothing to do with Beijing’s relationship with Europe. It was a response to the crackdown on democratic activists in Tiananmen Square in 1989. In this light, there is no justification to lift the arms ban because the political and human-rights situation in China continues to deteriorate.

The Bush administration has lobbied European governments not to allow arms sales to the Communists. Lack of Chinese progress on human rights is a major reason, but there is also the Taiwan factor. European weapons sales would be dangerous for Taiwan because the embargo is important for the island democracy to be able to defend itself. Its security is based on its ability to prevent the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from crossing the Taiwian Strait for an invasion. Staying technologically ahead of the PLA is critical to the effectiveness of this defensive posture. European arms sales to Beijing — especially Mirage jet fighters and other advanced avionics equipment from France, which are under negotiation — would undercut Taiwan’s important technological edge.

During Mr. Hu’s visit, Monsieur Chirac criticized Taipei for stoking tensions with mainland China. It was overlooked that it is Beijing that has 450 missiles aimed at Taiwan, and not the other way around. It was tacitly acknowledged, however, that the rationale for China’s military expansion is to counter American power in the world — a goal that France is now supporting. Both Messers. Hu and Chirac referred to the partnership between their countries as “strategic,” and the French Foreign Ministry mentioned the leaders’ “convergence of visions” about the need for “a multi-polar world” in which their nations are not subjected to “a uni-polar American worldview.” Beijing’s military budget has been growing at an annual rate of 17 percent to make the challenge.

At the behest of France and Germany, the European Union is reconsidering the arms embargo on China. The Dutch support lifting the ban, and other nations are lining up to follow suit. Many of the same governments opposed U.S. efforts to oust Saddam Hussein in Iraq. There is now a growing pattern of America’s old allies in old Europe working to counter — if not undermine — U.S. interests, American security and human rights around the world. The EU desire to arm Communist China is another example of that.

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