Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989 - Continuing Issues - EU and US Arms Embargo

EU and US Arms Embargo

The European Union and United States embargo on armament sales to the PRC, put in place as a result of the violent suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests, remains in place today. The PRC has been calling for a lift of the ban for years and has had a varying amount of support from EU members. Since 2004, China has portrayed the ban as "outdated", and damaging to China-EU relations. In early 2004, French President Jacques Chirac spearheaded a movement within the EU to lift the ban, which was supported by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. However, the passing of the Anti-Secession Law of the People's Republic of China in March 2005 increased tensions between mainland China and Taiwan, damaging attempts to lift the ban, and several EU Council members retracted their support for a lift of the ban. Moreover, Schroder's successor Angela Merkel opposed lifting the ban. Members of the U.S. Congress had also proposed restrictions on the transfer of military technology to the EU if the latter lifted the ban. The UK also opposed the lifting of the embargo when it took charge of the EU presidency in July 2005. The election of José Manuel Barroso as European Commission President also made a lifting of the ban more difficult, because Barroso is a critic of China's human rights record.

In addition, the European Parliament has consistently opposed the lifting of the arms embargo to the PRC. Though its agreement is not necessary for lifting the ban, many argue it reflects the will of the European people better as it is the only directly elected European body. The European Parliament has repeatedly opposed any lifting of the arms embargo on the PRC. The arms embargo has limited China's options from where it may seek military hardware. Among the sources that were sought included the former Soviet bloc that it had a strained relationship with as a result of the Sino-Soviet split. Other willing suppliers have previously included Israel and South Africa, but American pressure has restricted this co-operation.

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