The European Union (EU) arms embargo on China after Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989 is the longest sanction in European history. As of 2010, it had lasted more than 20 years.
Between 2003 and 2005, discussions on lifting the embargo were heated not only within the EU but also across the Atlantic. In spite of the “decision” taken in December 2004 to work towards the lifting within six months, the EU eventually made a “non-decision” on the lifting in June 2005. Since then, the debate of lifting the arms embargo on China is in a state of defacto freeze. Several factors are responsible for the EU’s hesitation, including strong U.S. objections, China’s poor human rights record and the unpopular “Anti-Secession Law” ratified in March 2005.
Although China and the EU agreed to upgrade their bilateral relations toward strategic partnership in 2003, the arms embargo remains an apparent obstacle waiting to be removed. It indicates that the strategic partnership between China and the EU is incomplete and immature.
This study aims to provide a review of post cold-war Sino-European relations, EU policy-making, and entanglement of Chine-EU-US interests by examining the "latitudes and longitudes" of EU arms embargo on China---backgrounds, phases of development and future outlooks as the latitudes, and the analysis of the characteristics of EU’s embargo, different party’s positions, pro and con opinions as the longitudes
This study analyzes 1) the nature of EU arms embargo on China: the commonality, uniquesness, and complexity as compared with similiar embargoes on other countries; 2) the prioritization of different factors in EU foreign policies: human rights, trade and economic cooperation, and security; and 3) the development of the embargo from 1989 to 2010, which, based on the attention received, could be seen in three phases, charaterized as being quiet, turbulent and frozen. This study concludes on how effective Taiwan’s efforts are and strategies could be adopted in the future.