The UK Foreign Secretary, Mr Straw, is visiting China. He has plans to end the arms embargo on China. This would be in the face of opposition from the US, Japan, and I’m going to guess Taiwan as well.
The embargo was placed to prevent China from buying arms from the EU as a result of the events in Tiananmen Square back in 1989. Interestingly, the recent death of Zhao Ziyang has brought Tiananmen Square back into discussion in the media.
The question seems to be what is enough penance for a country to serve? Is 15 years enough? Did the EU succeed in making their point by withholding arms? Is the whole issue no longer really up for debate? If the point of the embargo was to have some admission of injustice regarding the government’s reaction in 1989, then the answer is no. That means the tables are still open for debate, which I’m sure will happen within the EU. To me, today, embargoes don’t seem to have a lot of clout. Cuba has not really changed. Iraq didn’t change until military force went in (and we still don’t know how that will turn out). Even on the household level, grounding me never got me to admit wrongdoings. Taking away priveledges until my parents felt I had “learned my lesson” always fascinated me because it never inspired change. I’d just stay in my room and happily read.
I believe China’s situation is much the same, only the argument and punishment are coming from 2 adults. When I can’t buy books at my favorite local bookseller I don’t reevaluate my place in society. I go to another bookstore. China is well capable of acquiring arms through other venues.
So if the EU rescinds the embargo it only shows the embargo’s lack of effect, and there’s more benefit to be had (by the EU) selling arms to China.
I believe an embargo doesn’t make the best strides to making China a better more democratic place with less human rights problems. I also believe, considering the strides in China’s economic gains in the last 15 years, that the embargo hasn’t put much of a dent in China’s arms race.
Of course, Japan and the US’s objections add another interesting angle to the whole thing. The US is afraid more arms will mean that the US actually has to do something in relation to Taiwan, which could blow things out of the water. Nevermind that China is a tenacious and exceedingly well manned opponent, I have no doubt the US has more destructive toys and the loss of life would be staggering; think of how many things we buy that say “made in China.”
There are many more things made in China that don’t carry the label, but just think of the ones you can see. TVs, computers, dishes, appliances, refrigerators… last I checked, much of Walmart’s and Target’s inventory came from China. Even electronics from Japanese labels are manufactured or assembled in China or Korea. What happens when the price of those component pieces start to rise?
The possible outcomes, considering all the money the US has sunk into efforts like Iraq and the War on Terror, don’t bode well for the dollar. Funny that China’s currency isn’t US dollar dependent. They don’t have too much to worry about, other than where to find supplementary markets. Well, and the people who have savings in foreign currency bank accounts may be less than chipper.