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26 January 2004

• European Union to Consider Legalizing Arms Sales to China
• Anti-Corruption Remains Top Priority for CCP
• France Warns Taiwan Against Referendum

European Union to Consider Legalizing Arms Sales to China

This week France managed to place the issue of whether Europe should resume arms sales to China on the European Union’s agenda for the spring. France has suggested that the organization could come to a decision as soon as April this year. Many European nations have criticized France’s move as a ploy to curry favor in Beijing and improve France’s economic standing in China.

Both the EU and the U.S. have prohibited the sale of all military equipment to Chin ever since the People’s Liberation Army (PLS) used lethal force to suppress a popular demonstration near Tiananmen Square in 1989. Recently however, both France and Germany have agreed in principle that China has made sufficient in social reforms to warrant the resumption of military sales. They argue that China does not belong in a class with Myanmar, Sudan and Zimbabwe, the only other nations the EU has military sanctions against.

On the other hand, there is a strong voice within Europe that feels now is not the proper time to begin selling weapons to China. May feel that it could destabilize what is already an extremely precarious status quo between Beijing and Taipei.

Because of the sanctions, China has relied on Russian military hardware to compensate for deficiencies in its forces. In recent years Beijing has focused on acquiring hardware that will allow it to conduct “limited wars under high technology conditions”, such as fourth generation fighter jets and state of the art destroyers. Beijing has already expressed interest in French Mirage fighters and German stealth submarines. As the military balance between Russia and China increasingly tilts in Beijing’s favor however, it is unknown how much longer Russia will remain willing to sell its most advanced weapons systems to its southern neighbor.

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Anti-Corruption Remains Top Priority for CCP

The Chinese Communist Party’s Central Discipline Inspection Committee recently released a statement outlining its major anti-corruption goals for 2004. Unsurprisingly, the report states that the Commission will continue to focus on leading officials at or above the county-level who “violate the Party’s political disciplines, take bribes, or embezzle public money”.

In addition to the Discipline Inspection Committee’s usual targets such as construction projects, transfer of land-use rights, and abuses within the State Owned Enterprise system, the report says that it will give special priority to the “legitimate interests of the disadvantaged rural and urban residents”.

The report claims that the Commission will specifically target such abuses as the illegal use of farmland for commercialized development, delayed compensation to farmers for confiscated land, the abuse of urban residents in resettlement projects, and migrant workers whose employees delay payment of part or all of their wages.

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France Warns Taiwan Against Referendum

President Jacques Chirac cautioned Taiwan this week that the planned referendum threatens peace and stability in the region. “All initiatives that can be interpreted as aggressive by one side or the other are dangerous for everyone and this is irresponsible,” said Chirac. “That is why France, it’s correct, condemns a measure like a referendum or all others that can appear aggressive. This initiative is dangerous for everyone, for Taiwan, for China and for stability.”

On January 16, Chen announced that the referendum will ask voters if Taiwan should acquire more anti-missile to counter the more than 400 missiles China has deployed on the mainland side of the strait, and also whether Taipei should negotiate with Beijing.

Beijing sees any referendum as first step that could snowball into a formal Taiwanese declaration of independence. The Taiwan Affairs Office recently released a statement that Beijing “resolutely opposes Taiwanese independence, and also oppose any activity that promotes independence in the name of so-called referendums”. The leadership in Beijing views Taiwan as a renegade province and has repeatedly stated that they will use any means necessary to preserve their perceived territorial integrity.

Taiwan promptly retaliated that they “deeply regret” France’s opposition to the planned referendum and stated their view that the mainland, rather than the referendum, was the real threat to stability in the region. Taiwan also stated that the referendum is only intended to develop Taiwan’s democracy, not lead to independence.

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