Excellent piece by moderate left-wing columnist Timothy Garton Ash in today's Guardian on the EU's desire to lift the arms embargo to China and the US pressure that halted the Europeans in their tracks.
Here is an excerpt showing how Jacques Chirac became China's useful idiot:
What happened was this. The Chinese communist regime has long been irked by the embargo, both for symbolic, political reasons, since it places China in a small, ignominious club, together with Zimbabwe and Burma, and because it prevents the regime from importing weapons and weapons-related technologies that it wants. In autumn 2003, the Chinese foreign ministry published a paper on relations with the EU. Under the heading "the military aspect", the paper said that "the EU should lift its ban on arms sales to China at an early date so as to remove barriers to greater bilateral cooperation on defence industry and technologies".
Jacques Chirac picked this up, and urged the EU to oblige. Meanwhile, he declared 2004 the "year of China", painted (or rather, illuminated) the Eiffel Tower red, backed the Chinese official position on Taiwan and failed to criticise its record on human rights. His servility was rewarded with a few trade contracts and qualified Chinese endorsement of his vision of a "multipolar" world, to counterbalance American power.
And Chirac's mercantilist desire to obtain a fat export market for the moribund French economy at the expense of China's citizens and neighbors is simply wrong. Another excerpt:
On this issue, however, America is more right than wrong. The real danger of war between China and Taiwan, and China's still abyssmal human rights record, should be concerns to us all. Europe should not have paused because Washington bullied us; Europe should have paused because we ourselves saw the larger picture.
And believe me, this is one of the largest pictures there is [because] in 20 years' time the great triangular diplomatic game between China, Europe and the United States will be the biggest game in town. Thirty years ago, Henry Kissinger played the China card against the Soviet Union. Today, China is playing the Europe card against the United States.