February 03, 2005

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Europe, Cuba and China

Europe is getting ready to lift its arms embargo on China and replace it with a code of conduct, although some suspect it is not yet a done deal. Condi Rice isn't impressed, nor are some others.

The situation closely mirrors another: the EU's change of heart on human rights activists in Cuba. Glenn Reynolds quotes Vaclav Havel:

I can hardly think of a better way for the EU to dishonor the noble ideals of freedom, equality and human rights that the Union espouses -- indeed, principles that it reiterates in its constitutional agreement. To protect European corporations' profits from their Havana hotels, the Union will cease inviting open-minded people to EU embassies, and we will deduce who they are from the expression on the face of the dictator and his associates. It is hard to imagine a more shameful deal...

It is suicidal for the EU to draw on Europe's worst political traditions, the common denominator of which is the idea that evil must be appeased and that the best way to achieve peace is through indifference to the freedom of others.

Mr. Havel is wrong in one sense: it's not so hard to "imagine a more shameful deal".

posted by Simon on 02.03.05 at 09:49 AM in the


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I’m actually scratching my head to see what all the fuss is about. The only people who loose out in this deal are the American military and US arms manufacturers.

The EU is not stupid; China already possesses all of the weapons that it needs for internal repression. There is nothing that you can sell China for oppressing Xingjian and Tibet that it can’t already make for its self, and the EU isn’t going to be selling China long range ballistic missile that could target Taiwan or Japan.

The EU would be allowing China to have access to weapons and devices that would level the playing field between the US and China, redressing the technological imbalance between the two countries.

If China had French anti shipping missiles the US would think twice about sending a carrier to support Taiwan, and if they had Germany radar equipment then it would make US air support more risky, throw into this electronic warfare equipment and anti aircraft missiles and you’ve got the Pentagon by the short and curlies. This would actually make the world safer; China isn’t going to attack anybody without provocation, it’s just too risky for its economy, and having a better equipped China would make the US less lightly in the Pacific.

Balance creates stability, imbalance, like we saw in Iraq, allows one nation to impose its will over another.

What the US is worried about is that a war with China might suddenly become more costly in terms of hardware and service personnel, and that EU arms manufacturers would find a new source of income that America couldn’t tap in to.

China already has Russian fighters and Israeli drone aircraft and probably night vision systems as well; it’s not as if the EU is doing anything that other countries don’t already do.

posted by: ACB on 02.03.05 at 12:04 PM [permalink]

ACB, that's the point. Removing the embargo is more symbolic than anything else. It's an attempt to put commercial interests ahead of values such as human rights. Ironically that's what Europe pretends to stand for, while the Americans are have the principled approach this time.

I don't agree re Taiwan. Given China access to better technology will only upset the status quo. Rather than ease tensions they will increase if China thinks it is a better match for American forces.

posted by: Simon on 02.03.05 at 01:44 PM [permalink]

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