Silk Ties

From the June 2004 Trumpet Print Edition

The European Union’s relationship with China is complex. In spite of an EU arms embargo on China (created after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre) and China’s widely known human rights abuses, the Sino-EU relationship is blooming.

Evidence of the improving relations was abundant earlier this year when government officials from the EU and China met on two separate occasions. Bilateral trade between the two surpassed us$100 billion in 2003, making China the EU’s second-largest trading partner after the United States.

Where is this alliance leading?

Speaking during a visit of China’s Premier Wen Jiabao to Brussels in May, EU Commission President Romano Prodi said that he “would bet that the EU-China trade relationship will be the single biggest in the world.” Reporting on Prodi’s statements,

wrote, “Mr. Prodi’s comments could signal a shift in geopolitical focus—a move to diversify away from the transatlantic partnership that has traditionally been seen as Europe’s most important trade relationship” (May 6; emphasis ours throughout).

The EU’s move to increase trade with China is more than simply a trade or economics issue. It points to a shift in Europe’s “geopolitical focus.” The European combine is starting to look less westward and more toward the Far East.

Currently, negotiations are underway to free China from the arms embargo the EU placed on it in 1989. Analysts believe that if China agrees to implement the United Nation’s Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Europe will happily release China from the embargo. If this occurs, the European and Chinese militaries will be free to swap military technology and hardware.

On top of improving military, trade and economic ties, Beijing has also made it clear that it wants to be involved with the EU’s space program. “China’s keen interest in the EU’s Galileo radio satellite project is mainly driven by the prospect of acquiring an alternative to the American-operated Global Positioning System” (Asia Times, May 1).

The Asia Times article went on to say, “[T]he EU and U.S. could become rivals over the Chinese arms market.” There is no mistaking Europe’s and China’s motives here: They are attempting to curb American global influence.

Although it will take time for this to happen completely (e.g., the EU would need to double its trade with China to match its trade with America), the current marginalization of the U.S. by the EU and China is the beginning of a dangerous trend for America. For more on this, see our February 2004 article “Superpower Under Siege” under “Issue Archives” at