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ICG Risk Blog - [ France, with Germany in tow, seeks to use China to outflank both the EU and the US ]

France, with Germany in tow, seeks to use China to outflank both the EU and the US

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In France 1, EU 25: It's not your grandfather's Common Market, I mused that France would retarget its nuclear Force de Frappe at certain EU capitals as the EU's European Commission president-elect, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, upended the cart on the six largest EU members by appointing "a record number of women and politicians from smaller European countries to high-profile posts" while relegating the "EU heavyweights," France and Germany, to "comparatively lightweight portfolios."

In noting that France will make a Realpolitik reassessment of the sea change as it revises its approach to the EU, a group whose predecessors it had helped create and who it expected to lead even as the EU expanded eastward into former Warsaw Pact nations, I now see that reassessment as being a two pronged affair of a flanking outreach to China, and a retrograde Franco-German effort to turn the EU back to their preferred direction, if not control.

French and German motivations are strongly tied to their countries' economic weaknesses while they join with China is seeking to create a multi-polar world that checks US power. China, already the EU's number two trading partner after the US, will reciprocate as it attempt to gain entry to military and commercial purchases within the EU.

Expect to see a flurry of new Sino-French initiatives such as the plan to develop joint "Linux-based platform that can be used in multiple environments, including PCs, servers and PDAs [supporting] online services and communication applications." The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology will work with the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), Bull, and STMicroelectronics.

While EU ministers formerly lifted sanctions against Libya, they were "unable to reach an agreement to end the bloc's 15-year embargo on selling arms to China" even as France "had pressured heavily for lifting the embargo." While the EU says that there is "no linkage between the lifting of the arms embargo and human rights," it would like Chinese ratification of the Convention on Civil and Political Rights. "Officials in Brussels say the EU is only likely to lift the embargo once other, equivalent export control measures are in place. This is likely to occur sometime early next year."

China and France appear keen to expand their relations. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, France is now holding "China Year" and China is reciprocating with one for France. Proclaiming their affinity to the rest of the world, the French government invited Chinese President Hu Jintao as a state guest to Paris this past January. Moreover, just before the Taiwan presidential election in March, France and China conducted their first-ever joint naval military exercises.

For China, behind this recent diplomatic warmth is the Taiwan problem. China aims to encourage France further to lift the EU embargo on arms exports to China, which would concern the US because it might destabilize the regional strategic arrangement in North Asia and enhance China's ability to attack Taiwan.

Paris expects that close relations with Beijing would bring new business opportunities to its military-industrial complex, including Airbus Industrie, the major rival of the US aircraft maker Boeing in the world's skyliner markets. Other commercial, non-military benefits would also flow to France. Furthermore, France needs to secure strong support from China over the location of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, the world's first sustained nuclear fusion reactor venture.

Notice to US manufacturers and standards holders:

  1. Expect China, with or without French assistance, to create standards that are unencumbered by US patent or technology licensing fees.
  2. Expect France to support that effort wholeheartedly as it also attempts to create systems over which it has sway and that escape license or royalty payments to US firms.
  3. Expect France to push export of those systems into areas where it has diplomatic reach, such as Francophone Africa
  4. Expect France to use alliances to limit US power and strategic reach in cases where it can no longer exercise unilateral dominance.

France and China form Linux alliance
By Ingrid Marson
ZDNet (UK) October 12, 2004, 9:11 AM PT

EU: Arms Embargo On Libya Lifted, But Decision On China Delayed
By Ahto Lobjakas
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
12 October 2004

Sweating bullets over new Chinese train
By Kosuke Takahashi
May 13, 2004
Asia Times

Gordon Housworth



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