Europe’s policy towards China this year seems likely to include reconsidering its 21-year-old ban on arms sales to the Communist giant.
This has a moral dimension. The ban came in after the crackdown against pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989. Thousands of dissidents were killed in protests in Tiananmen Square two decades ago.
To start selling arms to the Chinese once more the EU members would need to agree unanimously. France and Spain have been the most vocal in campaigning to lift the arms embargo, given China’s standing as a strategic and economic partner. The most reticent to get down to arms trading again include the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany.
A high-level Chinese delegation is in Europe for diplomatic lobbying this week. But Beijing’s negative reaction to the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize being attributed to a Chinese dissident has been seen as contributing to certain EU states’ reservations.