12 WESTERN ARMS EXPORTS TO CHINA
US restrictions on which actors they can supply.60 Under the ECR initiative,
aspects of US re-export controls to some countries are being relaxed. However,
controls on re-exports to China and other countries subject to US arms
embargoes will remain in place.61
The USA has also used diplomatic and economic pressure to persuade other
states to block exports to China that were not subject to US re-export controls. In
2003, for example, the USA persuaded the Czech Government to block the sale of
10 Vera radars to China.62 In addition, in the mid-to-late 2000s US diplomats
lobbied European ocials to block the transfer to China of satellite technology
under the Galileo programme.63
The supply of Israeli military equipment to China has been a source of tension
between the USA and Israel for many years (see chapter 4). In July 2000 Israel
cancelled a $250 million deal to supply China with the Phalcon Airborne Early
Warning and Control system because of US pressure.64 In 2005 the US DOD
stated that Israel and Russia were China’s ‘primary foreign sources of weapon
systems and military technology’.65 Also in 2005, the USA suspended several arms
deals with Israel, including the export of night vision goggles, and blocked
Israel’s participation in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) combat aircraft pro-
gramme.66 The measures were aimed at persuading Israel to cancel a deal to
modernize Harpy anti-radar unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) that
China had acquired from Israel in the late 1990s.67 In addition to halting the deal,
Israel agreed to: (a) consult with the US Government on future arms sales to
China; (b) tighten restrictions on defence-related technology transfers;
(c) downgrade military relations to a minimum; and (d) submit exports to China
to a stricter export control regime.68 Reports from late 2013 indicate that Israel’s
arms industry is lobbying the Israeli Government to ease restrictions on exports
to China.69 However, the Israeli Ministry of Defense (MOD) is keen to avoid
US Embassy in Paris, ‘Airbus: fears of defense trade controls hurt US exports’, Cable to US Secretary of
State no. 08PARIS1078, 5 June 2008, <http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/06/08PARIS1078.html>.
BIS, ‘Remarks of Under Secretary of Commerce Eric L. Hirschhorn at the Practicing Law Institute’,
10 Dec. 2012, <http://www.bis.doc.gov/index.php/2011-09-12-15-56-29/2012-06-26-19-35-02/newsroom-
Saalman, L. and Yuan, J., ‘The European Union and the arms ban on China’, Nuclear Threat Initiative,
1 Jul. 2004, <http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/european-union-and-arms-ban-china/>.
US Embassy in Berlin, ‘Message delivered: Chinese attempt to procure illicit satellite components’,
Cable to US Secretary of State no. 08BERLIN618, 9 May 2008, <http://wikileaks.org/cable/
2008/05/08BERLIN618.html>; and Lague, D., ‘In satellite tech race, China hitched a ride from Europe’,
Reuters, 22 Dec. 2013.
‘Israel scraps China radar deal’, BBC News, 12 July 2000.
US DOD, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic
of China (US DOD: Washington, DC, 2005), p. 23.
Ben-David, A., ‘US pressure threatens Israel–China trade’, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 12 Jan. 2005, p. 22.
Ben-David (note 66).
US DOD, ‘US Department of Defense–Israeli Ministry of Defense joint press statement’, Press Release
no. 846-05, 16 Aug. 2005, <http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=8795>; Gertz, B., ‘US to
restart arms technology transfers to Israel’, Washington Times, 17 Aug. 2005; and Evron, Y., ‘Between Beijing
and Washington: Israel’s technology transfers to China’, Journal of East Asian Studies, vol. 13, no. 3 (2013),
Coren, O., ‘Israel’s defense industry lobbying to ease exports to China’, Haaretz, 31 Dec. 2013,
US EXPORT CONTROLS ON TRANSFERS TO CHINA 13
taking steps that might threaten security cooperation with the USA. In December
2013 the head of the Israeli MOD’s Defense Export Control Agency resigned
following reports that an Israeli subsystem sold to a French company had been
supplied to China.70
What has the USA licensed and exported to China?
Prior to 1989, the USA supplied a number of key technologies to the Chinese mili-
tary and throughout the 1980s signed several major arms deals with China.71 The
largest of these was the $550 million Peace Pearl programme for the modern-
ization of China’s F-8 combat aircraft. Other transfers included: (a) the modern-
ization of a production facility for 155mm artillery shells; (b) the sale of
24 Sikorsky S-70 helicopters; (c) the sale of Mark-46 anti-submarine torpedoes;
and (d) the sale of AN/TPQ-37 artillery-locating radars.72 In 1990, with the appli-
cation of the US arms embargo, China cancelled the Peace Pearl programme and
in 1992 the USA cancelled its remaining arms deals with China.73 Despite the
existence of the embargo, a number of Chinese weapon systems use US-built
components, either because the systems were supplied prior to 1990 or because
the items concerned are not subject to US export controls. For example, the Chin-
ese K-8 trainer aircraft uses a ﬂight instrumentation system built by US company
Rockwell Collins and Chinese Dong Feng military trucks use diesel engines built
by the US company Cummins.74
The Chinese military also continues to deploy a number of weapon systems
imported from the USA before the US arms embargo was imposed. For example,
the PLA continues to use 24 Sikorsky-built S-70 transport helicopters, originally
delivered in 1984. According to the Chinese military the helicopters are main-
tained using spare parts that were stockpiled before the US arms embargo. How-
ever, in 2005 a South Korean was convicted of trying to obtain engines for S-70
helicopters in order to supply them to the Chinese military.75 Supplies of spare
parts for these helicopters are blocked by the US arms embargo on China. Never-
theless, Sikorsky has been able to sell the civilian version of the S-70 to China
continuously since 1984 and the civilian version of the S-92 transport helicopter
Opall-Rome, B., ‘Israel replaces export control chief after tech transfer to China’, Defense News, 3 Jan.
Archick, Grimmett and Kan (note 28), p. 4; and Meijer (note 4).
Archick, Grimmett and Kan (note 28).
Mann, J., ‘China cancels US deal for modernizing F-8 jet’, Los Angeles Times, 15 May 1990.
‘K8/JL8 Trainer Jet: PLAAF’, Air Force World, [n.d.], <http://airforceworld.com/pla/english/k-8-JL-8-
JL-11-trainer-china-pakistan.html>; ‘Rockwell Collins establishing joint venture with China Electronics
Technology Avionics Co. Ltd. to support COMAC C919 program’, Business Wire, 24 Oct. 2012,
ture-China-Electronics#.UwdqiHmqB28>; and Amnesty International, ‘China: Sustaining conﬂict and
human rights abuses—the ﬂow of arms accelerates’, 10 June 2006, <http://www.amne
Tran, P., ‘China extends military reach’, Defense News, 24 May 2010, pp. 1, 8; and ‘Sikorsky engine
trader sentenced’, Connecticut Post, 31 Aug. 2005.
14 WESTERN ARMS EXPORTS TO CHINA
since 2005.76 In 2013 Sikorsky and the Chinese company Changhe Aircraft
Industries Corporation signed a co-production deal for the civilian version of the
S-76 in China.77 This kind of deal is likely to have provided Chinese industry with
technologies and production methods that can be applied in the production of
military systems.78 In late 2013 the PLA unveiled a new indigenous-built
helicopter—the Z20—that appears to share some of the design and technology
aspects of the S-70.
‘USA lifts barriers to sale of S-92 to China’, Flight International, 23 Aug. 2005, <http://www.
Sikorsky, ‘Sikorsky and Changhe sign agreement for S-76DCabin production in China’, Press release,
5 Sep. 2013, <http://www.sikorsky.com/About+Sikorsky/News/Press+Details?pressvcmid=8c88d90f24fe
US DOD (note 34).
Waldron, G., ‘Pictures: China pushes ahead with military helicopter programmes’, Flight Global, 9 Jan.
3. European export controls on transfers to
China: France, Germany and the United
This chapter details the policies of the EU’s three largest arms exporters—France,
Germany and the UK—on transfers of military-related technologies to China,
including transfers of military goods, dual-use items and other non-controlled
items relevant to the development of China’s military capabilities. It begins with a
discussion of the EU arms embargo on China, which all three states are politically
obliged to apply. Separate sections then outline the French, German and British
export control systems, including their interpretations of and positions on the EU
arms embargo, their application of national export controls on transfers to China,
and details of what is being licensed and exported to China.
The European Union arms embargo on China
In June 1989 the European Council adopted a number of punitive measures
against China, including a halt to ‘military cooperation’ and ‘an embargo on trade
in arms with China’.80 The imposition of the embargo predates the creation of the
EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) with the Maastricht Treaty in
1993 and is, consequently, not legally binding on member states.81 Furthermore,
there has been no agreement on a list of items to be covered by the term ‘arms’.
The question of how the embargo should be applied is left to individual EU
member states, whose interpretations continue to diﬀer in terms of both policy
and practice. In addition, the embargo is not covered by the 2009 EU Dual-use
Regulation’s so-called ‘catch-all’ provision that requires EU member states to
control exports of unlisted goods to military end-users in embargoed desti-
Each of the 12 EU member states that were members of the Union in 1989 is
obliged to implement the EU arms embargo on China. While the 16 states that
have joined the EU since 1989 have accepted as binding all EU decisions made
prior to their membership, this does not apply to the European Community’s
political declarations.83 However, the EU Common Position deﬁning common
rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment covers
European Council, ‘Council of Ministers Declaration on China’, 27 June 1989, <http://www.
European Union External Action Service (EEAS), ‘Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the
European Union’, [n.d.], <http://eeas.europa.eu/cfsp/index_en.htm>.
Council of the European Union, Council Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 of 5 May 2009 setting up a
Community regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items, Oﬃcial
Journal of the European Union, L 134, 5 May 2009, Article 4(2).
European Commission, ‘Conditions for membership’, [n.d.], <http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/
16 WESTERN ARMS EXPORTS TO CHINA
the EU arms embargo.84 The EU Common Position commits member states to
deny arms export licences inconsistent with ‘the international obligations of
Member States and their commitments to enforce United Nations, European
Union and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) arms
embargoes’.85 This means that EU member states which joined the EU after 1989
are obliged to take the EU arms embargo on China into account when assessing
export licence applications.
Disputes about the lifting of the embargo
The EU embargo on China was the source of an intense transatlantic and intra-
European dispute in 2003–2005, when both France and Germany indicated that
they were in favour of its removal.87 At the December 2004 meeting of the
Council of the European Union, EU member states ‘rearmed the political will
to continue to work towards lifting the arms embargo’.88 At the same time,
member states recalled ‘the importance of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms
Exports in particular criteria regarding human rights, stability and security in the
region and the national security of friendly and allied countries in preventing an
increase in arms sales to China from EU Member States’.89
However, the proposal raised strong objections in the USA, with both the US
Congress and US President George W. Bush warning that such a move would be a
signiﬁcant obstacle to US defence cooperation with EU member states.90 In an
attempt to allay US concerns, the EU made it clear that the embargo on China
would not be lifted until a strengthened EU Code of Conduct was agreed.91 How-
ever, US opposition to lifting the embargo remained strong.
The passing of an
anti-secession law by China’s National People’s Congress in March 2005—which
threatened military force if Taiwan formally declared its independence—also
inﬂuenced EU member states’ thinking, serving to further dampen support for
lifting the embargo.92 Some commentators have argued that the passing of the
anti-secession law provided convenient cover for EU member states to drop the
plan, which they were now keen to abandon in the face of concerted US
The EU Common Position supersedes the 1998 Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, and is a legally
binding agreement aimed at setting ‘high common standards’ in EU member states’ arms export policies.
Council of the European Union, ‘Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP of 8 Dec. 2008 deﬁning
common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment’ (EU Common Position),
Oﬃcial Journal of the European Union, L335, 8 Dec. 2008; and Council of the European Union, ‘European
Union Code of Conduct on Arms Exports’, 8675/2/98 Rev. 2, 5 June 1998.
Council of the European Union, ‘EU Common Position’ (note 84), p. 2.
British Government ocial, Interview with authors, 11 Feb. 2014.
‘Schroeder backs sales to China of EU weapons’, Wall Street Journal, 2 Dec. 2003; and ‘Chirac renews
call for end of EU arms embargo on China’, Agence France-Presse, 27 Jan. 2004.
European Council, ‘Presidency Conclusions’, 16–17 Dec. 2004, Brussels, <http://www.european-
‘European Union Code of Conduct on Arms Exports’ (note 84); and European Council (note 88).
Alden, E., ‘US threat to restrict arms sales to Europe’, Financial Times, 13 May 2004.
Anthony, I. and Bauer, S., ‘Transfer controls’, SIPRI Yearbook 2005: Armaments, Disarmament and
International Security (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2005), pp. 699–719.
US Embassy in Dublin, ‘Subject: Ireland still opaque on China arms embargo’, Cable no. 05DUBLIN512,
29 Apr. 2005, <http://www.wikileaks.ch/cable/2005/04/05DUBLIN512.html>.
EUROPEAN EXPORT CONTROLS ON TRANSFERS TO CHINA 17
pressure.93 In addition, there was strong opposition to lifting the embargo within
Europe, from both the media and the European and member-state parliaments,
mostly based on concerns relating to the human-rights situation in China.
Since 2005 the idea of lifting the arms embargo on China has been raised
occasionally by EU member states and EU ocials but failed to gain the kind of
support needed to make it a serious proposition. In January 2010 the Spanish
Government—which had just assumed the rotating Presidency of the Council of
the European Union—indicated its desire to discuss lifting the embargo.94 In
December 2010 the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign
Aﬀairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, described the EU arms embargo on
China as ‘a major impediment for developing stronger EU–China cooperation
However, these moves appear to have had limited support among EU member
states, a number of which—particularly Germany and the UK—remain opposed to
lifting the embargo.96 Indeed, it appears that the real ambition of the two
declarations was not to restart a serious debate about lifting the embargo but,
instead, to send a friendly signal to China.
Under President Obama, the USA has maintained its staunch opposition to the
lifting of the EU arms embargo, despite the apparent lack of credible support for a
policy change within Europe. In 2010 the US Department of State issued an
action request ‘for all Embassies in EU countries to reiterate our position that the
EU should retain its arms embargo on China’.97 US pressure is still widely seen as
the key factor blocking any move towards an eventual lifting of the EU arms
embargo.98 It has been argued that the USA’s position on the embargo on China is
illogical, since the embargo is not legally binding and provides no real constraint
on EU member states’ transfers of military goods to China.99 One argument is that
the USA is actually more concerned about denying the Chinese Government the
symbolic victory that a decision to lift the embargo would represent.100
Japan has also consistently voiced its strong opposition to any attempt to lift
the EU arms embargo on China.101 In addition, a majority of members in the
‘The EU and arms for China’, The Economist, 1 Feb. 2010, <http://www.economist.com/blogs/
US Secretary of State, ‘Supporting the EU arms embargo on China’, Cable to US Embassy in Beijing and
US Mission to the European Union no. 10STATE13969, 17 Feb. 2010, <https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/
10STATE13969_a.html>; and Cowan, G., ‘Spain looks to end EU arms embargo on China’, Jane’s Defence
Weekly, 3 Feb. 2010, p. 14.
Hale, J., ‘EU arms embargo called “bargaining chip” in wider China talks’, Defense News, 13 Jan. 2011,
Kirkup, J., ‘Britain prepared to block Eurozone move to relax arms embargo on China’, Daily Telegraph,
4 Nov. 2011; and German Parliament, ‘Antwort der Bundesregierung, Zur Sicherheitspolitischen Lage in Ost-
und Südostasien’ [Reply by the Federal Government on the security situation in East and Southeast Asia],
Drucksache 17/8561, 8 Feb. 2012, <http://dipbt.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/17/085/1708561.pdf>.
US Secretary of State (note 94).
‘The EU and arms for China’ (note 93).
Lewis, J., ‘EU arms embargo on China’, Arms Control Wonk, 24 Mar. 2005, <http://lewis.arms
British Parliament, Select Committee on International Development, ‘Examination of Witnesses
(Questions 100–119)’, 12 Jan. 2005, <http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/
Willis, A., ‘Japan: Ashton was wrong to suggest lifting China arms ban’, EU Observer, 19 May 2011,
18 WESTERN ARMS EXPORTS TO CHINA
European Parliament are strongly opposed to ending the ban.102 A 2008 reso-
lution in the Parliament stating that the EU ‘must maintain its arms embargo on
China, as long as China continues to export arms to armed forces and armed
groups in countries, many of them in Africa, that fuel conﬂicts and perpetrate
gross violations of human rights’ was passed with 618 members in favour and 16
against.103 While the European Parliament has no formal say in whether or not
the embargo is lifted, any attempt to lift it while opposition remains strong could
pose signiﬁcant political problems.104 Some EU think tank experts have voiced
support for lifting the embargo if it can be used as leverage for gaining Chinese
concessions in other areas (e.g. cooperation against the Iranian nuclear
programme), but the issue is not currently a policy research priority.105
China’s view of the embargo
The EU arms embargo has been a source of intense irritation to China since its
imposition and the Chinese Government has constantly called for it to be lifted.
These calls grew louder following the publication in 2003 of China’s ﬁrst EU
Policy Paper, which stated 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’.106 The Chinese Government considers the
embargo degrading as it puts China in the same category as other countries that
are under EU sanctions, such as Belarus, Myanmar, Sudan and Zimbabwe.107
During a September 2012 visit to Brussels, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao
reiterated China’s unhappiness that the embargo remained in place.108 A char-
acteristic of Wen’s policy towards the EU was to link the lifting of the arms
embargo to other bilateral issues—especially the EU’s trade deﬁcit with China
and international security cooperation.
Although the arms embargo is still framed in China as an obstacle to greater
China–EU cooperation on international security matters, there are also clear
signs that China is becoming less focused on lifting the EU arms embargo.109 The
2014 update to China’s EU Policy Paper still calls on the EU to ‘lift its arms
embargo on China at an early date’ but Chinese ocials are not pushing the issue
with the same frequency or intensity of previous years.110 This position is likely to
Cendrowicz, L., ‘Should Europe lift its arms embargo on China?’, Time, 10 Feb. 2010.
European Parliament, ‘Chinese policy and its eﬀects on Africa’, Procedure File no. 2007/2255(INI),
23 Apr. 2008, <http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ﬁcheprocedure.do?id=556476>.
‘The EU and arms for China’ (note 93).
Godement, F. and Fox, J., A Power Audit of EU–China Relations (European Council on Foreign
Relations: London, 2008).
Chinese State Council, China’s European Union Policy Paper (Information Oce of the State Council:
Beijing, Oct. 2003).
Weitz, R., ‘EU should keep China arms embargo’, The Diplomat, 18 Apr. 2012,
Kanter, J., ‘Wen chides Europe on arms sale embargo’, New York Times, 20 Sep. 2012.
Banks, M., ‘EU arms embargo against China dismissed as “unimportant”’, TheParliament.com, 2 Aug.
Chinese State Council, ‘China’s policy paper on the EU: deepen the China–EU comprehensive
strategic partnership for mutual beneﬁt and win-win cooperation’, Apr. 2014, <http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/
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