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?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?