Removal of the EU embargo on arms sales to China
Mr President, a debate on the removal of the arms embargo on China has a natural tendency to produce crudely-drawn arguments and discussions, and, as I believe that certain Members are over-simplifying matters, I will try to introduce a few nuances into the debate. Right at the very start, I would like to say that I regard the removal of the arms embargo as neither advisable nor wise. There is no doubt in my mind that I am opposed to it.
China, though, must be considered in a rather more subtle light than it has been from the standpoints we have adopted so far, and in this I am, for once, closer to Mr Tannock than to other Members who have spoken today. China is a large and – let us be frank about this – capitalist economic system with a single-party state clamped over it. It is trying to enable its people to have a share in the world´s growing prosperity, and the greatest danger lies in whether China will manage to maintain the political structure of a common state and to meet people´s social needs. The fact is that China´s biggest problem has to do not with arms but with increasing hunger and poverty in sections of its population. It certainly also has the major problem that it has in one country different cultures, languages and ethnic groups, and it has not so far succeeded – I might add that it is not alone in this – in giving these diverse cultures and ethnic groups the space that will alone make it possible to maintain the country´s political unity.
So, although China does not need our weapons, it does need our sympathy and support in what is a difficult process of development. I would not wish major responsibility in a problematic large state like China on anyone in this House. That is, I think, another reason why the resolution rather misses the mark by considering the Taiwan issue in what are admittedly the right terms – of China becoming a threat – but to the exclusion of all others. In one respect alone I am closer to President Bush than to Mr Cohn-Bendit, and that is in the belief that he is right to warn Taiwan, too, against taking ill-advised action. I am not talking about whether or not such actions might be justified, morally or otherwise. At times when crises are brewing, there are courses of action that may perhaps be justified from an objective and abstract point of view, but can nonetheless play a part in making hostilities or a crisis situation more likely.
It is not for this House to warn only one side against taking unilateral and perilous courses of action; rather, it should also urge the other side to be sensible and hold back, to endeavour to leave the way open to peaceful agreement. That, I believe, is the one important message that is, lamentably, absent from this resolution. Hence my conclusion that the answer to the removal of the arms embargo is `no´. China needs all the help and support we can give, but not where armaments are concerned. We should be urging both parties in this hotspot, China and Taiwan, to be cautious in the action they take, and reminding them that we live in times in which peaceful, rather than warlike solutions must be found.