China sanctions five US companies in upgraded response to Washington’s arms sales to Taiwan island

Global Times, January 7, 2024 —

As countermeasures against US’ arms sales to China’s Taiwan region and the country’s sanctions on Chinese entities, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Sunday that China has decided to impose sanctions on five US defense companies, including freezing movable and immovable assets and other types of property held within China, as well as prohibiting organizations and individuals within China from engaging in transactions, cooperation, and other activities with these companies.

The moves are seen by Chinese observers as upgraded countermeasures against US’ provocative moves on the Taiwan question, and show that China’s tolerance of US arming up island of Taiwan is wearing thin. Experts believe the latest tussle between China and the US over arms sales to Taiwan before island’s regional leader election also sends a warning signal to the US that it should stop daydreaming that it can escape any consequences when provoking on the Taiwan question, and that China will take strong countermeasures over any provocative moves on this sensitive question

Citing a Pentagon release last month, Reuters reported that the US State Department has approved a $300 million sale of equipment to help maintain the island of Taiwan’s tactical information systems.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency confirmed that the sale was for follow-on life cycle support to maintain the island of Taiwan’s Command, Control, Communications and Computers, or C4, capabilities, while the defense authority on the island claimed that the sale would help maintain the effectiveness of its joint combat command and control systems so that it can improve battlefield awareness, Reuters reported.

In a statement that Chinese Foreign Ministry released on Sunday, it said “The US arms sales to China’s Taiwan region in blatant violation of the one-China principle and the stipulations of the three China-US joint communiqués, particularly the August 17 joint communiqué of 1982, and the illegal unilateral sanctions the US has imposed on Chinese companies and individuals under various false pretexts seriously harm China’s sovereignty and security interests, undermine the peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits, and violate the legitimate and lawful rights and interests of Chinese companies and individuals. China strongly deplores and firmly opposes this and has made solemn démarches to the US.”

“In response to these gravely wrong actions taken by the US and in accordance with China’s Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law, China has decided to sanction five US defense industry companies, namely BAE Systems Land and Armament, Alliant Techsystems Operation, AeroVironment, ViaSat and Data Link Solutions. The countermeasures consist of freezing the properties of those companies in China, including their movable and immovable property, and prohibiting organizations and individuals in China from transactions and cooperation with them,” said the ministry.

“I would like to stress that the Chinese government remains unwavering in our resolve to safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity and protect the lawful rights and interests of Chinese companies and citizens. We urge the United States to abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, observe international law and the basic norms governing international relations, stop arming Taiwan, and stop targeting China with illegal unilateral sanctions. Otherwise there will be strong and resolute response from China,” the statement read.

Upgraded countermeasure

The sanctions announced on Sunday mark a much more severe punishment for these US companies, such as freezing the companies’ movable and immovable assets and other types of property held within China, which also demonstrate China’s firm determination in thwarting Taiwan secessionists’ collusion with the US, Lü Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Lü said the latest arms sales include C4 systems consisting of a series of equipment and software that can enhance data processing capability of the armed forces on the island of Taiwan. “Such equipment are not simply to equip Taiwan with better weapons, but also upgrade the island’s intelligent sharing capacities with the US. This move is of high sensitivity and more destructive. Thus China must take a harsher step in response to the US’ dangerous moves.”

Viasat, a global communications company, which is among the five companies sanctioned, announced in 2022 a deal with Sichuan Airlines and AeroSat Link Technology Co, a subsidiary of China Satellite Communications Co, according to an announcement published on Viasat’s website.

According to the deal, the airline selected Viasat’s industry-leading In-Flight Connectivity technology and equipment for installation on its Airbus A320 family of aircraft.

Last year, China added two major US defense contractors Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Missiles & Defense to its unreliable entities list and imposed several sanctions, including a ban on trade activities related to China and huge fines, against the firms for participating in arms sales to the island of Taiwan.

In the long run, the US has been escalating its arms sales to island of Taiwan, and China has been gradually and systematically hitting back, Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times.

Previously, China slapped sanctions on Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Missiles & Defense, the next step is to expand the list to include some less-known defense companies, and Xin believes the list may continue to expand. It sends a warning to US defense companies to exercise restraint and refrain from actively lobbying and promoting [arms sales to Taiwan island], and reminds the US government to restrain from frequently and massively promoting the sale of advanced weapons and equipment to Taiwan, said Xin.

China’s sanctions on US firms in recent years shows that China’s tolerance of US arming up island of Taiwan is wearing thin, as the US real intention is to obstruct the peaceful reunification of China and sabotage peace and stability of Taiwan Straits, Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Sunday.

US failed credibility

Chinese observers said the US’ latest arms sales is sending a wrong signal to Taiwan secessionists forces ahead of the upcoming regional leader election on the island in January 2024. Moreover, it came just about one month after the meeting between the two heads of state of China and the US in San Francisco in November 2023, during which Biden said the US does not support “Taiwan independence” and has no intention to have a conflict with China.

Another wrong signal the US has sent to the island of Taiwan before its regional leader election can be seen in a report by The New York Times last month, which revealed US’ military training in the Hawaiian jungle that instructs troops on the skills needed for a potential clash with China over locations including the island of Taiwan.

In recent weeks, Western media has been hyping that the election would pose a test of “steady” China-US ties. For example, Reuters reported on Friday that the upcoming Taiwan’s regional leader election represents the “first real wild card in 2024 for the Biden administration’s goal of stabilizing ties with China.”

Lü believes that political forces within the island of Taiwan won’t be able to sway the overall situation, and what China needs to prepare for is the collusion between Taiwan secessionists and US forces. The latest strong countermeasures against US arms sales to the island aim to warn Taiwan secessionists that relying on US support will only lead to a dead end, and that China will do whatever its needs in order to realize reunification, he noted.

The essence of the Taiwan question lies in the game between China and the US, he added.

Chinese experts said that hopefully this round of sanctions against US firms should make the US side understand that any provocative moves on the Taiwan question will inevitably be met with firm countermeasures.

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