The European Union, after a three-year spat with President Bush, is keen to be regarded as a world player to be reckoned with. Many EU leaders see newfound respect coming in the form of a “strategic partnership” with China that is designed to balance the power of the United States.
Some want that partnership to include trade in advanced weaponry—witness the recent push to remove the EU’s 15-year-old ban on arms sales to China. Although America objects strongly, a number of Europeans shrug off any opposition.
But China is no ordinary trading partner. If not openly committed to opposing Western values and interests, China’s interests in cowing Taiwan and in asserting regional hegemony across Asia certainly are not those of Europe and the West, not to mention Japan, India, and the rest of Asia.
Indeed, China stood with Russia, Belarus, and a few other despotic regimes in prematurely recognizing the thuggish, ballot-stuffing Viktor Yanukovych as President of Ukraine. This should come as no surprise, as the Chinese government does not plan to hold free and fair elections soon. Indeed, perhaps Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, with those thousands of protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square served as a potent reminder to China’s leaders of the Tiananmen Square protests 15 years ago, and – in contrast to Ukraine – their own strategy of brutal repression.