French consulate is victim of jet row

CHINA yesterday carried out its threat that France would 'eat bitter fruit' for selling Mirage fighters to Taiwan, but Western diplomats said an order to close the French consulate in the booming southern city of Canton was at the lower end of the scale of possible retaliation, writes Raymond Whitaker.

The French ambassador, Claude Martin, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry and told the pounds 2.6bn sale of 60 Mirage 2000-5 fighters and 1,500 air-to-air missiles had 'seriously worsened bilateral relations'. 'Under these circumstances, the Chinese side is of the view that the unilateral maintenance of the French consulate general in Canton is no longer appropriate,' the Vice-Foreign Minister, Jiang Enzhu, was quoted as saying. He told France to close its consulate within a month. The French government said it regretted the decision, but still refused to confirm the Mirage sale.

'By insisting on the sale of fighter aircraft to Taiwan in disregard of the strong objection of the Chinese side, the French government has seriously infringed upon China's sovereignty and security, interfered in China's internal affairs and jeopardised China's efforts to achieve peaceful reunification,' Mr Jiang said. 'This is absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese side.'

China has been angered this year by a succession of military deals with Taiwan, which it regards as a renegade province, but until yesterday it had avoided direct retribution. An earlier French sale of frigates was offset by a promise of economic aid to Peking - a pounds 78m loan agreement was signed on Tuesday - and no serious action has so far been taken against the US, which has sold Taiwan 150 F-16 fighters.

China's scope for retaliation is curbed by its dependence on exports, particularly to the US, where it enjoys a dollars 20bn (pounds 13bn) trade surplus, to fuel its expanding economy. After hinting at the time of the F-16s deal that it might cancel grain purchases, it recently bought wheat as well as six Boeing airliners and a switching system from AT & T. France has recently missed out on a number of deals, but China has held back from ordering out the French ambassador, as it did in the case of the Netherlands after Taiwan bought two Dutch submarines.

One Western diplomat commented that Peking appeared to be confining its action to the commercial front. With Sino-British relations at their worst for more than a decade over Hong Kong, and uncertainty over the intentions of Bill Clinton, the US president-elect, China could not afford confrontation with a third Western power.

'What this latest episode shows is that relations with leading Western countries are still not completely normal after the Tiananmen massacre in 1989,' he said. 'France is quite prepared to defy China.'

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss