Source: China State Council Information Office
The United States’ October 21 announcement of three arms sale deals with Taiwan, together worth over $1.8 billion, has stirred up strong sentiments in China. While expressing its objection to the deal, the Chinese Government announced sanctions against individuals, firms and entities involved in the arms sales, including Boeing. The announcement of these three deals was followed by the announcement of a fourth on October 27: sales to Taiwan of Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems worth approximately $2.4 billion. This frequency of arms sales to Taiwan is sure to push China-U.S. relations further on a downward spiral.
That Taiwan is part of China is a fact recognized by the international community, including the United States. For historical reasons, the reunification is yet to take place. The one-China principle and the three China-U.S.
Joint Communiqués constitute the foundation of China-U.S. diplomatic relations, and also of normal exchanges between the two countries. U.S. arms sales to Taiwan violate this principle, violate the three communiqués, and will also instigate secessionist activities carried out by “Taiwan independence” separatist forces. By selling arms to Taiwan, the U.S. is interfering in China’s internal affairs. The Chinese Government will not remain idle and do nothing. It will carry out actions to safeguard national sovereignty and dignity.
Why does the United States continue selling arms to Taiwan? It cites the Taiwan Relations Act as an excuse, arguing that it is trying to fulfill its commitment to Taiwan’s security and to showcase the government’s prioritization of strengthening Taiwan’s defense capabilities.
However, its true intention: provocation intended to interfere in China’s internal affairs through Taiwan as a means to contain China’s continuing development. It is also likely that these acts were part of a strategy calculated to win votes for the Donald Trump presidency.
The United States sees China’s continued rise as becoming a strategic rival, and this has spurred its efforts to derail Chinese development in multiple areas. Under the Obama administration, the United States frequently sent naval vessels to the South China Sea in the name of free navigation. In 2016, we saw the farce of the so-called South China Sea Arbitration. After Trump took office, the United States triggered a trade war by increasing tariffs on Chinese commodities. The U.S. is also using state power to suppress Chinese tech companies, limiting the number of Chinese students allowed to attend U.S. universities, limiting the Chinese media’s press activities in the U.S., and curbing cultural and people-to-people exchanges. It has also built up a clique of anti-China nations. Arms sales to Taiwan serve as part of this policy.
In carrying out these activities, however, the United States does not intend to spark direct conflict or a war with China, but is instead attempting to identify the best means to sap China’s capacity to compete. This intention can be seen by piecing together the United States’ recent behavior relating to Taiwan, including the visit of Alex Azar, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, to Taiwan in early August, and the latest round of arms sales to Taiwan. The United States is like a child that is fond of playing with fire. But it too will be hurt if this fire goes out of control.
The Taiwan authorities and some public figures in Taiwan believe that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan will help to meet Taiwan’s demand for strategic defense. This is another form of playing with fire. The Taiwan authorities take it for granted that purchasing arms from the U.S. will make the U.S. a backstop in Taiwan’s confrontation with the mainland. However, this is just wishful thinking. The U.S. will not act as Taiwan hopes, but will only continue to use Taiwan as a pawn to curtail China’s development. In the case of a cross-Straits war, the U.S. will definitely refuse to become directly involved, as direct involvement does not suit U.S. national interests.
The Chinese Government is still exercising restraint, urging the U.S. to stick to the one-China policy and the three joint communiqués, to stop arms sales to Taiwan, cancel all arms sale plans and sever military ties with the island.
This round of arms sales in particular focuses on offensive weaponry, conceivably fueling the ambitions of “Taiwan independence” separatists. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response and Harpoon missiles are all capable of reaching the coastal cities on China’s mainland. If separatists’ misjudgment leads to reckless moves, whatever the United States chooses to do, it will inevitably damage its own interests.
Lan Xinzhen is a commentator with Beijing Review magazine.