Richard North, 09/08/2004  

There is an excellent paper summarising the state of play on the EU and its attempts to lift the arms ban on China, published on the NTI site: click here.

While it paints a gloomy picture of the effect of sales of sophisticated European weapons to China, there is also some optimism. The authors question the capability of the Chinese armed forces to integrate such weaponry into its own existing order of battle, which is dominated by relatively unsophisticated Russian equipment. They suggest that the transformation of the PLA into a modern force will take years, if not decades, to materialise.

Their comments are interesting in several respects, not least that it highlights the problem confronting all modern defence forces. With the proliferation of sophisticated new technology, the problem has become making all the bits work together as a seamless whole. That is what the US Future Combat System is all about, and what FRES pretends to be – and both are stretching the budgets and ingenuity of their sponsors.

In a perverse sort of way, therefore, if the European continue selling the Chinese a miscellany of hi-tech equipment, the PLA's problems could get worse not better. However, one somehow doubts that is what is in the minds of the French and the Germans who are so anxious to sell their kit to the Chinese.

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