The US and China are entering a sanctions war, with China using US corporations as its bargaining piece.
Relations between China and the United States have plummeted to their lowest level in decades amid growing accusations of human rights violations committed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The US and China are entering a sanctions war, with China using US corporations as its bargaining piece.
On October 26, Beijing announced it was placing sanctions on US defense contractors – including Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Technologies – for supplying weapons to Taiwan. The government placed additional sanctions on some US politicians.
The sanctions come in response to the US State Department’s decision to approve deals with Taiwan that would supply the island nation with US$1.8 billion in arms, including 135 precision land-attack missiles that have the capability of reaching the Chinese mainland.
The CCP claims that Taiwan, which has officially been separate from mainland China since 1949, remains governed by China and has threatened to seize the sovereign region.
Chinese spokesman Zhao Lijian has demanded that the US “stop arms sales to Taiwan and stop any military interaction with Taiwan.”
Still, “US sanctions generally have more symbolic value than real-world impact,” Michael Montgomery, a former US diplomat at the State Department, told TMS.
“While nominally intended to produce policy change,” Montgomery added, “they rarely achieve that end. They do, however, meet the political imperative that US administrations sometimes face to ‘do something’ about bad behavior on the part of another government without taking on a great deal of risk.”
History of tensions
Taiwan and Hong Kong have long complicated US-China relations. While Washington has no formal ties to Taiwan’s democratically-elected government, many feel that the US would be required to defend Taiwan should it come under attack.
But Zhao stands firm that the sale “seriously undermined China’s sovereignty and security interests.”
In recent months, China has stepped up military activity in the region, hoping to force concessions from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
China has also increased pressure on other governments to cut diplomatic ties with the region and is now shifting its focus to US corporations.
China is one of Boeing’s primary markets for commercial aircraft, which may leave the company at risk during a boycott.
Earlier this week, Beijing tightened the reins further by stripping four pro-democratic legislators of their positions under the newly-imposed national security law, which China implemented in July.
Hong Kong legislators responded on November 11 by stepping down en masse to oppose their colleagues’ exile.
The restrictive national security laws criminalize any actions the CCP sees as anti-China – including the ability to protest or speak freely.
Reuters reported that a newly adopted resolution allows Hong Kong city officials to expel lawmakers believed to be in support of Hong Kong’s independence or a threat to national security without a trial.
In response to China’s actions, the US has instituted travel and financial bans on Chinese officials and companies it associates with abuses in Hong Kong and the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where China has Muslim minorities detained in re-education camps.
Washington levied such sanctions on November 9 against four Chinese officials in Hong Kong’s security organization for their alleged involvement in Hong Kong suppression.
This came alongside sanctions on companies working with China and the revocation of Hong Kong’s Special Status, which authorized special trade and economic benefits to the region, sparing it from the effects of the US-China trade war.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted November 9, “Today we are taking action against four Chinese and Hong Kong-based officials in connection with policies and actions that have undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy, eroded the rule of law, and stifled dissent through politically motivated arrests. #StandWithHongKong.”
According to the State Department statement, “These individuals will be barred from travelling to the United States and their assets within the jurisdiction of the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons will be blocked. These actions underscore U.S. resolve to hold accountable key figures that are actively eviscerating the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
In response, Hong Kong Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung called the sanctions “absolutely unacceptable.”
Cheung also labeled the US State Department’s actions “a blatant” and “barbaric” interference in the city’s internal affairs. Cheung was speaking as acting chief executive on behalf of Carrie Lam, who is traveling.
“We are not going to be intimidated,” Cheung told reporters in Hong Kong on November 10.
These sanctions are the first imposed on China since President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump in this month’s presidential election.
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