While anticipation is growing for the upcoming presidential elections in Taiwan on January 13, the tension of the Chinese government is growing at the same time, which has long considered the island an integral part of China, and nothing more than a “rebellious province.” Sooner or later, reunification with ” “the Chinese motherland, by good morals, or, if necessary, by military force. The use of military force is an option that Beijing has never set aside. On the contrary, it has increased recently. For this reason, China views with great alarm the periodic supplies of weapons to the “rebellious” Taipei by the United States, the island’s main ally, which is de facto independent. The latest chapter of this confrontation occurred in these hours, as China imposed sanctions on five American defense companies due to arms sales to Taiwan.
The sanctions, as we read in a memo from the Chinese Ministry of Defense, are the result of the “grossly wrong measures” taken by the United States and issued in accordance with the Chinese law on sanctions against foreigners, and also the result of the “unilateral sanctions and illegal measures” imposed by the United States against companies and Chinese individuals. The affected American companies are BAE Systems, Alliant Techsystems, AeroVironment, ViaSat, and Data Link Solutions, against which Beijing has adopted measures consisting of freezing the properties of these companies in China and prohibiting transactions and cooperation with organizations and individuals in China.
This is not the first time that China has imposed sanctions on American companies for selling weapons to Taiwan. Early last year, Beijing placed Lockheed Martin and Raytheon on its list of unreliable entities and banned them from engaging in import or export activities linked to China and from making new investments in the country. Furthermore, it is not clear whether and to what extent new sanctions might impact affected companies, given that US defense equipment manufacturers and military service providers generally do not do any business in China, so such sanctions are often seen as… It's symbolic.
But the issue of supplying American weapons to the rebellious island contributes to ensuring that relations between Beijing and Washington remain at odds, and even become increasingly close after the United States approved a new military allocation of $300 million to support the island. Defending the island. This allocation was announced last December 15, just one month after the long-awaited San Francisco summit between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, who on that occasion specifically stressed that Taiwan remains “the issue.” “The most important and sensitive.” In China-US relations” and urged the United States to “stop arming Taiwan.” For its part, Washington justified the new allocation by saying that helping Taiwan modernize its armed forces “will help maintain political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region.” But soon after From the announcement of the deployment, the Chinese People's Liberation Army has intensified its military training and operations in the Taiwan Strait. The matter is extremely sensitive, considering that Washington is legally obligated, under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, to help the island protect itself by providing “weapons with “defensive character”, its main international supporter and its main international backer. Arms supplier. The law, which was passed three months after Washington transferred its diplomatic recognition to Beijing in January 1979, is intended to show that the United States has not abandoned its long-time ally. But Washington's commitment to directly defend the island from any military attack is considered by Beijing to be clear support for Taiwan's independence.
The rapid shift in the military balance in Beijing's favor has raised concerns about Taiwan's ability to defend itself from a cross-strait attack. As a result, US arms sales to Taiwan have begun to increase, accelerating sharply since the Trump presidency, not only to increase the island's defense capacity, but also to counter Beijing's rise as China's geopolitical rival in Washington. During Trump's four years in office, the United States approved arms sales to Taiwan 11 times. By comparison, three arms deals were reached during Barack Obama's two terms as president. The United States has supported Taiwan's military objectives under current President Tsai to develop a strategy that involves asymmetric warfare, more limited and sophisticated military technologies, and the application of more flexible military strategic concepts and weapons platforms to exploit the weakness of a stronger adversary. The growing security cooperation between the United States and Taiwan has alarmed Beijing, which sees it as a clear signal that the United States opposes China's peaceful renaissance.
The Biden administration has continued arms sales to Taiwan, while also allowing US officials to meet more freely with Taiwanese officials. Biden was the first US president to invite representatives from Taiwan to attend the presidential inauguration. The United States participates in military training with Taiwan and regularly sails its ships through the strait to establish its military presence in the region, and has encouraged Taiwan to increase its defense spending. Additionally, Taiwan has received bipartisan support in Congress over the years, with lawmakers proposing and passing legislation to strengthen U.S.-Taiwan relations, strengthen the island's defenses, and encourage its participation in international organizations. The most recent legislative proposal, the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, would designate Taiwan as a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally.
More than 19 million Taiwanese are expected to cast their votes in the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for January 13, the results of which will affect cross-Strait relations and those between the United States and China. Vice President and Democratic Progressive Party candidate William Lai Cheng-ti is the favorite in the race, with almost all opinion polls indicating his lead over Ho Yu-a of the pro-China Kuomintang Party, and Kuo Wen-ji of the smaller party that is popular in Taiwan. For its part, Beijing urged Taiwanese voters to “stand on the right side of history… “The process of peaceful reunification of the motherland,” after Xi said in his New Year's speech that “reunification” with Taiwan was inevitable.
The increased military support provided by Washington during Tsai's presidency so far has steadily increased Beijing's military and economic pressure on the island. China's People's Liberation Army has conducted frequent exercises around the island in recent years, including large live-fire exercises after then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in August 2022 and Tsai met with Pelosi's successor Kevin McCarthy in the United States in April. Now People's Liberation Army warplanes regularly cross the center line of the Taiwan Strait, once an unofficial barrier between the two sides.
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