Will EU and China be Friends?

The embargo on weapons supplies to China was introduced in 1989; within the 15 years since that time European companies had no opportunity to supply weapons to China
On Monday, January 26 EU foreign ministers commissioned experts to consider lifting an embargo on weapons supplies to China. The decision was dated for the visit of China leader Ju Jintao to France. The Chinese delegation is expected to touch upon lifting of the embargo during negotiations with the French authorities. It should be mentioned that France is a champion of lifting the embargo on weapons supplies to China.

France's opinion is supported by Germany: Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder spoke of the necessity to lift the embargo at beginning of December 2003. However, EU members are not yet unanimous as concerning the issue. Sweden, Denmark and Holland think that lifting of the embargo is rather risky if China's policy toward Taiwan is taken into consideration. Europeans also demand that Beijing must provide guarantees that it will not use weapons for domestic repressions. In any case, a positive verdict on the embargo issue requires consent of all EU members. What is more, the European Union will have to consider Washington's opinion that strongly objects to lifting of the embargo. In any case, the issue is expected to give rise to heated discussions at the end of March when EU leaders' summit is to take place.

The embargo on weapons supplies to China was introduced in 1989; within the 15 years since that time European companies had no opportunity to supply weapons to China. They had no legal opportunity for this at least.

According to the official data, China's military budget made up about $20 billion in 2002. At the same time, unofficial sources insist it was four times bigger. This titbit is certainly particularly attractive for western weapons producers. There are no obstacles, except for political ones, to recommencement of weapons supplies to China. 

Russia is still the basic supplier of weapons to China; it was thanks to the Russian supplies that Beijing partially modernized the Air Force and the Naval Forces. However, China's need for modern weapons is still very high. For instance, 95 per cent of Chinese warplanes disagree with the present-day requirements. The same situation is typical of China's Naval Forces. So, European weapons producers may enjoy fantastic prospects in China. This is the reason why France, one of the world's largest weapons producers actively lobbies lifting of the embargo.

Meanwhile, if the European Union lifts the embargo this may cause serious damage to the interests of Russian companies. 60 per cent of Russia's weapons export falls on China (the volume of last year's weapons export made up $5 billion approximately).

For Russian companies to be equal rivals with European ones, experts say that restrictions imposed by the RF Ministry of Defense on supplies of the most modern weapons to China must be abolished. It is said that these supplies will not be dangerous for Russia's security. In a word, Beijing has a wide range of prospective weapons suppliers to choose from.

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Author`s name Michael Simpson