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Foreign relations of the European Union


The European Union arms embargo on the People's Republic of China is an embargo which was imposed by the European Union (EU) member states on the People's Republic of China (PRC) in response to its suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Some EU member states have recently considered lifting the embargo. The former French President Jacques Chirac, who believed that it was an archaic embargo that does not reflect present geopolitical realities, strongly supported such a course of action. The United States, which also has an arms embargo on China, fears that lifting the embargo will create a technology transfer that will increase the capabilities of the People's Liberation Army. The US has stated that it will protect Taiwan (ROC) if invaded by the PRC, so it fears that European arms would be used against the US if such a situations occurs.[1]

Similarly, Japan has been at the forefront of lobbying efforts against any attempt to remove restrictions on arm sales to Beijing.[2] Japan's government, particularly hard line members of the government cabinet, fear that any such move will alter the balance of power in South east Asia strongly in favour of China at Japan's expense. China described Japan's position as "provocative". [3]

On March 14, 2005, the PRC passed the Taiwan anti-secession bill, which was designed to thwart any potential moves on the part of Taiwan for independence.[4] In reaction, Britain's foreign secretary Jack Straw stated on May 20, 2005 that the process to lift the embargo was becoming "more difficult" as a result of China's lack of human rights progress as well as the new anti-secession bill.

Various EU heads of state have objected to the embargo's cancellation or supported its continued existence in the immediate future. Angela Merkel has indicated her opposition to a lifting of the embargo, whereas her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, had been in favour.[5] In 2004, it was reported that the U.K. and Scandinavian countries were concerned at the removal of the embargo, whilst France pressed for its removal at the time, claiming it is "outdated".[6] Malta also supports its removal.[7]

The European Parliament has consistently argued against removing the embargo, passing resolutions critical of China and in support of Taiwan.[8] Though it cannot block a removal of the embargo, the Parliament is the only directly elected European institution, and thus it argues only it can claim to represent the European people.[9]

Whilst the embargo remains, China buys much of its arms from Russia. China had turned to Israel for surveillance planes, but under pressure from the U.S., refused to go through with the deal.[2]

China insists that the embargo be removed, calling it "very puzzling" and amounting to "political discrimination". However, as of December 2008, the EU is currently not planning to remove the embargo due to the continuing human rights situation in China.[10]

See also


External links



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