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30th Jul 2021

EU arms embargo against China 'absurd', says ambassador

  • Common issues such as sustainable development will continue to drive the EU and China closer together says Ambassador Song Zhe. (Photo: EUobserver)

China's ambassador to the European Union, Mr Song Zhe, told an audience in Brussels on Friday (12 June) that the EU arms embargo against the Asian giant was radically out of step with the otherwise deepening relations between the two sides.

Mr Song said the policy was "an absurd political discrimination against a strategic partner," adding that many Chinese diplomats and ordinary citizens also found the embargo and the EU's failure to recognise China as a market economy "bewildering".

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The issues continue to produce tension between the two sides, despite the fact that senior officials have stressed the need to focus on the bigger picture rather than getting bogged down on specific issues.

Mr Song himself said: "A logical and accurate definition of our relationship must be based on a macro, global and strategic point of view," during the discussion hosted by the European Policy Centre think-tank.

The EU's refusal to sell arms to China dates back to the suppression of protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989, but some member states, in particular France, have suggested that the policy is outdated. A majority of states do not agree however.

Likewise, the EU is reluctant to give China market economy status before it automatically qualifies in 2014, as doing so would limit the amount of anti-dumping cases it can take against the large Asian country, one of its principle weapons in the various trade disputes that regularly arise.

Partnership and Co-operation Agreement

Mr Song's comments come three weeks after a EU-China summit in Prague and at a time when policy makers on both sides are discussing the future direction of bilateral relations.

Franz Jessen, head of the China unit in the European Commission directorate for external affairs, said relations between the EU and China had evolved considerably since the two sides signed a Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) in 1985.

Greatly increased contact, from the top political level in EU-China summits, down to more technical discussions between commission head's of unit and its Chinese counterparts, meant there were far fewer "surprises" than before, said Mr Jessen.

"Ambassador Song Zhe has taken public diplomacy to new levels in the last couple of years," he said, with other commission officials confirming that China's mission to the EU in Brussels has been highly effective in getting its message across.

However, he also stressed the need for a new document formally outlining bilateral relations between the two sides, citing China's greatly expanded economic and political influence as the main reasons.

Discussions on a further reaching Partnership and Coo-peration Agreement (PCA) were opened in 2007, with Mr Jessen predicting the political component of this agreement to be completed "in the year to come".

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