Reuters reported that China was once again kvetching about the UN referendum, a harmless piece of electioneering that can have no concrete effect, since China possess a veto in the UN and can block Taiwan’s entry whenever it pleases.

China has again prodded the United States to oppose a controversial referendum on U.N. membership by Taiwan and warned Washington to stop arms sales to the island China claims as its own, state media said on Tuesday.

The purpose of this exercise is apparently to get Washington to say something to Taipei. But the latter two players have already expressed their mutual displeasure with each other’s stance, and neither the obdurate Bush nor the election-bound Chen is going to back down.

Meanwhile French President Sarkozy, in Beijing drumming up business for French companies, was kind enough to say a few words on behalf of Beijing about the referendum:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday that his country opposes “Taiwan independence” and the island’s push for a referendum next year on UN membership.

France holds that there is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an integral part of China, which is the general position of the international community, Sarkozy said.

Any unilateral initiative is “ineffective and unjustified”, especially the planned referendum, he said during the meeting with President Hu Jintao.

“It (the referendum) is not a useful initiative. It is therefore regrettable and I hope it will not be pursued.”

Several European leaders have spoken out on China’s behalf. Last month it was EU Preznit Javier Solana who did the Beijing kowtow. As the Economist reported this summer:

Why is the EU meddling? Taiwan is a thriving democracy and big trading partner (almost as important as India or Brazil). The explanation is simple and unedifying: the EU is doing China’s bidding. Chinese rulers regard the Taiwan referendum as a sneaky step closer to an eventual declaration of formal independence by the island.

China expends extraordinary energy on pestering other governments to preserve the strange limbo inhabited by Taiwan, a self-governing island of 23m that it insists is a wayward province. Whenever Taiwan irks China, its ambassadors appear at foreign ministries worldwide, demanding that Taiwan be rebuked.

An internal EU memorandum sheds light on the way such strong-arm diplomacy works. Prepared by officials working under Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign-policy supremo, it describes a meeting, late last month, between the Chinese ambassador to the EU, Guan Chengyuan, and a top Eurocrat. According to EU note-takers, Mr Guan called the referendum provocative and destabilising, and said China wanted EU support, as it did not want to have to use “the last resort”—an apparent reference to its threat to use force, if necessary, to “reunify” Taiwan.

China always welcomes people to meddle in its “internal affairs”, so long as they agree with Beijing. Fortunately the EU rank and file is hardly as craven as its leadership — despite calls from leaders the embargo on arms sales to China remains intact, and 84 members of EU lawmaking body called for representation for Taiwan in the UN last month.

A group of 84 members of the European Parliament released a joint statement Thursday to express their support for Taiwan’s bid to join the United Nations.

The members representing various political groups, who have gathered in Strasbourg, France for the European Parliament’s plenary session, noted in their statement that Taiwan is a sovereign state that has never been governed by the People’s Republic of China and that it is wrong and unfair for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to claim that Taiwan is part of China and deny Taiwan’s eligibility for membership.

They pointed out that in a report on China issued last September, the European Parliament called for representation for Taiwan’s 23 million people in international organizations and that to this day, Taiwan remains excluded from most of these organizations.

Calling Taiwan a full-fledged democracy with a highly developed economy that can make valuable contributions to the international community, the members urged the European Union’s 27 member states and other U.N. members to seriously consider Taiwan’s application for membership in the world body.

China knows full well that the referendum cannot succeed. Why is it pushing the EU and Washington so hard to suppress Taipei? Because if it attacks Taiwan’s democracy itself, it risks stirring up the DPP’s pro-Taiwan voters, and souring KMT supporters with its heavyhandedness. Hence it wants other to do its dirty work. Hopefully US and EU officials won’t continue their policy of running interference for China.