Wang Dan a Chinese student leader in the 1989 Tianamen Square rallies has a comment in today's Financial Times. Citing Europe's historic stand for human rights and his admiration of Locke and Rousseau he argues there has not been sufficient human rights reform to warrant lifting the ban on arms sales. Many participants in the protests are still in jail or denied re-entry to China.
Thought China has made great strides in its economic programs its political progress has gone backwards. China is trying to have it both ways. It wants, and needs the good relations of nations to engage in the global economy. This is being done with great success. To keep its masses happy and content its economy must continue on its meteoric rise. But it continues to hold a firm grip on government and resists democratization. It recent threats to invade Taiwan show the long held desire to reclaim its territory is intact.
Arms sales will not benefit the average Chinese in their desire to improve their standard of living and take their share of the good life. Dan gets to the real point of arms sales in this quote:
"I understand the importance of engaging China. I personally supported the US move to grant China "most favored nation" I trading status, and also the country's bid to host the Olympic Games. But selling weapons to China is an entirely different matter. From solid trading relations, ordinary Chinese people can benefit; but weapons sales only benefit the officials involved in the arms deals and the Chinese government. They do nothing to help development of Chinese civil society or raise living standards of ordinary Chinese. It puzzles me why some EU leaders want to lift the arms ban while the Chinese government still refuses to deal with questions of truth and accountability concerning the June 4 massacre, and while human rights conditions in China continue to deteriorate."
Arms sales to China will help transform China in an Asian superpower that will challenge American influence in the region. The power balance will be significantly altered. The results will be catastrophic. As the headline of the commentary says, "History tells us to keep the arms ban on China".