Discrimination at the Singapore Airshow: A Reflection on Global Military Relations and Technology Access

Christian Baghai
2 min readFeb 26, 2024

In a world that’s increasingly interconnected, the recent incident at the Singapore Airshow serves as a stark reminder of the complexities and sensitivities that underpin international relations, particularly in the realm of military technology and access. The event in question, which has sparked widespread discussion and controversy, involved visitors from China being denied entry to an Airbus A400M transport aircraft owned by the German air force, the Luftwaffe.

The Incident

At the heart of the controversy is a video that went viral on Chinese social media. It shows a woman, identified by her Airbus badge, asking a Chinese blogger for his nationality before denying him entry to the aircraft, citing “German rules” and “military restrictions.” The blogger’s nationality was the sole reason provided for the refusal, which has led to allegations of discrimination and has prompted an apology from Airbus for “any inconvenience caused” and immediate action to ensure the aircraft was open to all visitors for the remainder of the airshow.

The Airbus A400M and Its Significance

The Airbus A400M is touted as the most advanced “airlifter” military transport plane available, capable of delivering troops to small, unprepared airstrips as well as transporting large equipment to bases and acting as a mid-air refueling tanker. The barring of Chinese visitors from the aircraft has raised questions and concerns, particularly in the context of increasing European wariness about Chinese state access to Western military technology.

European Concerns and the Bigger Picture

The incident comes amid increasing European concern over Chinese state access to Western military technology. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, had previously warned against European technology enhancing China’s military capacities. This event at the Singapore Airshow seems to have touched on sensitive issues relating to national security and international relations, highlighting the complexities of global military and technological engagements.

The Response and Apology

In response to the situation and the ensuing backlash, Airbus issued an apology for “any inconvenience caused” and took immediate action to ensure that the aircraft was open to all visitors for the remainder of the airshow. The European plane manufacturer acknowledged the concerns raised by visitors regarding access to the A400M plane and communicated with the customer and Airbus teams at the show to rectify the situation.

Conclusion

The Singapore Airshow incident is a microcosm of the larger debates surrounding international military relations and technology transfer. It underscores the delicate balance between national security interests and the principles of openness and non-discrimination.

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