Beijing (AFP) – As China boosts its military spending, rattling neighbours over territorial disputes at sea, an AFP investigation shows that European countries have approved billions in transfers of weapons and military-ready technology to the Asian giant.
China’s air force relies on French-designed helicopters, while submarines and frigates involved in Beijing’s physical assertion of its claim to vast swathes of the South China Sea are powered by German and French engines — part of a separate trade in “dual use” technology to Beijing’s armed forces.
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced stepped-up production of the Airbus EC175 helicopter in China during his visit to France this month — a deal analysts said could result in technology transfers to the military.
“European exports are very important for the Chinese military,” said Andrei Chang, editor of the Hong Kong-based Kanwa Asian Defense Review.
“Without European technology, the Chinese navy would not be able to move.”
The European Union imposed an arms embargo on China after its army killed many demonstrators in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. But member states are free to interpret the embargo loosely, analysts say.
The exports have generated friction with the United States — which does not export arms to Beijing — along with criticism from activists pointing to human rights violations and analysts citing regional security concerns.
An EU spokesman said in a statement that “the final decision to authorise or deny the (arms) export is the responsibility of EU member states”.
China — the world’s second largest military spender — last month announced the latest of many double-digit rises in its official defence budget.
EU arms makers received licences to export equipment worth three billion euros ($4.1 billion) to China in the decade to 2012, according to annual EU reports on the trade.
China is on track to become a major military power.
While it calls its expanding capabilities peaceful and aimed at self-defence, relations with its neighbours have soured in recent years, especially rival Japan, with experts warning of potentially dangerous escalations if either side miscalculates.
Tensions spiked last year when a Jiangwei-class Chinese frigate was among the vessels Tokyo accused of locking fire-control radar on a destroyer and a helicopter near disputed islands seen as a potential flashpoint, an allegation Beijing denied.
Military experts believe the ship relies on diesel engines produced by German firm MTU.
MAN told AFP that its Chinese licensees have supplied about 250 engines to China’s navy.
MTU said it “acts strictly according to the German export laws”, without elaborating.
Full article: EU firms help power China’s military rise (Yahoo!)