Thursday, February 17, 2005

The China issue again

In a short and necessarily superficial paper, Helle Dale, the Foreign Policy and Defence Studies director of Heritage Foundation, praises efforts made on both sides of the transatlantic divide to narrow the gap. Even by making stupendous allowances, she cannot make the efforts seem equivalent.
“On its side, the Bush administration has taken several steps to address European concerns. We are engaging far more directly in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; U.S. foreign aid is seeing a significant increase in the 2006 budget; environmental concerns are back as a subject of discussion now that the Kyoto Protocol has taken effect; contractors from European countries that did not participate in the war were allowed as of last year to participate in the competitive bidding process.

Europeans, however, have so far grudgingly agreed to dispatch a small number of trainers to help with the Iraqi police under NATO auspices, though where they will be allowed to conduct their instruction is still uncertain. The French government persists in the absurd opinion that the place cannot be Iraq.”
Well, let’s draw a line under that, she suggests. The Europeans (and who are they, precisely, Ms Dale?) could improve the situation by listening to American concerns over China.

She lists all the usual reasons for not lifting the arms embargo:

China’s adventurous and destabilizing policy in South-East Asia, that has brought it to the brink of open hostilities with the United States and its allies.

China is engaged in an arms build-up, having spent $17.8 billion (£9.4 billion) since 1995, though it appears to have no external enemy in sight. (That may not be the way China views the situation, having long ago decided that anyone who does not do as the Chinese leadership says is an enemy, externally and internally.)

And, of course, there is the lamentable Chinese non-record on human rights. A number of American commentators have placed emphasis on this, presumably believing the EU’s waffle about spreading sweetness and light, freedom and democracy, motherhood and apple-pie.

Alas, Ms Dale, that is not what the EU is interested in and as a policy wonk, who is distinctly in favour of a European Union rather than American relations with European friends and allies, you will have to get used to this.
“European defense contractors, like the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., are eyeing billions of dollars worth of lucrative contracts, and Europeans are teaming up with China to work on everything from multipurpose helicopters to a global navigation satellite system.”
That is one aspect of the whole sorry tale. The other one is the definite intention on the part of the European Union to build its common foreign policy entirely on the basis of opposition to the United States.

Ms Dale addresses quite sensibly the question of what America can do.
“All of which may leave the Bush administration with some unpopular choices of its own. One step could be to revive Cocom (the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls) from the Soviet days, which might provide a forum for the exchange of information between Europeans and Americans as to who is selling what arms to China and when.

Or the U.S. government might start to refuse export licenses to European allies on some of the most sensitive U.S. technologies and on the sales of "dual-use" technology to any European nation that sells arms to China.

In that case, we would really see stormy weather over the Atlantic.”
We have just had another storm warning. When will our political leaders start paying attention?

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