Secret Bid to Arm Qaddafi Sheds Light on Tensions in Government China
“If you want to export a product, you should get permission,” said the official, Wang Feng. “You want to talk to some other country, you ship to the country, you should get permission.”
That was on June 11, or roughly a month before three of
The government, at Foreign Ministry briefings last week, has said that it gave no permission for the deals to proceed.
Some believe that big state-run weapons companies, with their close ties to the military, easily make end runs around the diplomats in the Foreign Ministry, which negotiates
“It’s possible, and has been the case in the past, that Chinese arms companies push their own agenda,” Mathieu Duchatel, a senior researcher in
The military alliance may gain an added edge when the diplomats are themselves embattled. Since the rebels mounted their revolt last February,
During much of this debate, supporters of Colonel Qaddafi seem to have had the upper hand. Alone among major powers, China has yet to recognize the rebels’ Transitional National Council, which took effective control of Libya after Colonel Qaddafi’s ouster.
Whether these calculations figured in the arms negotiations is hard to say, in part because the government insists that the arms being negotiated — antitank missiles, rocket launchers and portable rockets capable of bringing down aircraft, among others — were never delivered. Technically, at least, Chinese arms vendors are not required to seek permission before talking about deals with foreign customers.
On the other hand, some of the companies involved in negotiations with Colonel Qaddafi’s government have a track record of skirting sanctions, American officials say. The
Chinese officials have argued that the Americans rely on incorrect information or too-sweeping definitions of prohibited weapons components.
Chinese companies were major suppliers in the past decade of small arms and ammunition to
In theory, the violations should never occur to begin with. A government agency issues arms-export licenses in consultation with
But in the Chinese government, as in Chinese life, personal relationships carry huge weight. And it is widely believed by outside experts that the fraternal ties between arms makers and the military, which owned many of them before weapons-making was hived off in the 1990s, overwhelm the diplomats’ say in the process. “The state-owned enterprises have a lot more leeway with regard to whom they can trade with,” said Stephanie Lieggi, a senior researcher and an expert on
That may be especially true with the trade in conventional weapons, which has taken a back seat among arms-control advocates to restraining the traffic in nuclear weapons components and their missile delivery systems.
The arms-sales proposals drawn up in July, in meetings between Chinese company officials and Libyan military attachés, were notable on several accounts, scholars and experts say.
One was the sheer size of the $200 million order. “Usually, arms companies don’t have that in stock,” said Tai Ming Cheung, a senior researcher at the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at the
Another was the suggestion by the Chinese arms brokers, outlined in the trash-heap documents, that
But the government has said it knew nothing of the sales pitch. And so there is no evidence that the arms companies’ proposals to sidestep the embargo were known to higher-ups, much less carried out. “
Li Bibo contributed research.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs