The European Union is at risk of missing the bigger picture as it agonises over whether or not to lift its embargo on arms sales to China. The EU foreign ministers' heated debate last weekend had all the breadth of vision of teachers in a staff-room discussing what punishment to give a recalcitrant pupil.

But China is no pupil. It is already the EU's second biggest trading partner. In economic terms, it is on the brink of resuming the global significance it enjoyed two hundred years ago, when it accounted for a third of world GDP. In purchasing power parity terms it is already the second largest economy in the world. If membership of the G7 were calculated on that basis, it would easily outrank Germany, France and the UK, and entirely displace Italy from the group.

Politically, the country is now reasserting itself as a major international player even if somewhat inelegantly. The spat that has suddenly broken out with Japan owes more to China's ambitions for regional leadership than to resentment over Japanese treatment of history: ghosts have been crudely re-awakened from the middle of the last century to spike Japan's bid for a permanent seat alongside China on the UN Security Council.

China showed a more mature political approach at its summit with India last week, which...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT