China sanctions US defense manufacturers over arms trade with Taiwan News
總統府, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
China sanctions US defense manufacturers over arms trade with Taiwan

The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Sunday that China intends to impose sanctions on five US defense manufacturers over recent US arms sales to Taiwan. The is the latest in a series of retaliatory measures to the US State Department’s approval of an estimated $300M in foreign military and arms sales to Taiwan, disclosed in December.

In remarks posted to the Foreign Ministry’s official website, a spokesperson confirmed the sanctions, identifying five leading defense industry companies that would be targets of the measures: BAE Systems Land and Armament, Alliant Techsystems Operation, AeroVironment, ViaSat and Data Link Solutions. The sanctions will freeze the properties and assets of those firms in China, including both “movable and immovable property.” Additionally, organizations and individuals in China will be prohibited from engaging in transactions or otherwise cooperating with the identified firms. 

Taiwan is located at the junction of the East and South China Seas. It is self-governing, but viewed by China as a breakaway province, a claim Taiwan’s democratic government unequivocally rejects. Historically, the US and other countries have adopted an approach known as the “One China” policy. It is a position of strategic ambiguity regarding Taiwan, under which the US acknowledges that China is one sovereign state and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. The operative word here is “acknowledges,” suggesting that the US neither supports nor rejects Chinese sovereignty and authority over Taiwan. US President Joe Biden has indicated the country would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.

China views recent arms sales by the US to Taiwan as a “blatant violation” of the “One China” principle, with the spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry saying US actions to support Taiwan, like arms sales and sanctions, “seriously harm China’s sovereignty and security interests, undermine the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and violate the legitimate and lawful rights and interests of Chinese companies and individuals.”

The new sanctions come at a particularly precarious time, ahead of Taiwan’s presidential and parliamentary elections, which Chinese officials have claimed are a choice between “war and peace.” Incumbent Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who was first elected president in 2016, has faced increasing pressure from China in response to her pro-independence stance. Following her reelection in 2020, Tsai prioritized diplomatic relations with the US, relying on their allyship in the pursuit of political stability and military advancement.  She has called on Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his government to respect the outcome of the election, to maintain peace and order in the region.

“Everyone’s home has locks on them, which is not to provoke the neighbors next door but to make yourself safer. This is the same for the doors to the country. Taiwan’s people want peace, but we want peace with respect,” Tsai said in her New Year’s address

China maintains its unequivocal denunciation of US-Taiwan relations:

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 a strong and resolute response from China.

Taiwan’s presidential and parliamentary elections are set to take place on January 13. Tsai is term-limited and not eligible for reelection.