China is very unhappy with a pair of U.S.-based defense contractors, and Beijing announced on Monday that it would impose new sanctions against them. China took aggressive measures against Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies in response to the sale of weapons to Taiwan, a move that will step up its feud with Washington over Beijing's strategic ambitions for the self-governing island.
China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be brought back under mainland control. While the United States doesn't officially recognize the government in Taipei as independent, it remains the self-governing island's main partner—and that has included the sale of military hardware.
American law requires that the government ensure that Taiwan can defend itself, and on February 8, Washington authorized a $100 million deal with Taipei for the maintenance of the U.S.-made Patriot missile system. As a result, Beijing has responded directly by imposing sanctions.
"In order to protect the sovereignty and security interests of China, and in accordance with the provisions of the 'Foreign Sanctions Prevention Act,' the Chinese government has decided to take countermeasures in response to the actions of the American military-industrial companies Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies, which have been involved in supply Taiwan with American weapons for a long time," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters during a briefing on Monday.
"China once again urges the US government and relevant parties to… stop arms sales to Taiwan and sever military ties with Taiwan," Wang added.
Wu Qian, the spokesperson for the Chinese Defense Ministry, also stated that selling arms to Taiwan constitutes a blatant interference in China's internal affairs.
"U.S. arms sales to Taiwan severely infringe on the 'One China' principle and three joint U.S.-China communiqué … This represents a flagrant interference in China’s internal affairs and undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests," Wu claimed.
This isn't the first time that China has imposed sanctions on U.S. defense contractors.
In October 2020, Beijing announced sanctions against Raytheon and other defense contractors as well as relevant American individuals. Just a day later, the U.S. Department of State announced that it had notified Congress of plans for a $2.37 billion sale of Harpoon attack missiles to Taipei.
The latest sanctions come as tensions have mounted in the region. China has increased its military activity around the island to reportedly force concessions from the pro-independence administration of President Tsai Ing-wen. This has included sorties by the People's Liberation Army Air Force into Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
In January, China sent thirty-nine warplanes into Taiwan's ADIZ in its second-largest incursion on record. That included twenty-four J-16 fighters, which experts have said is among China's favorite jets for testing Taiwan's air defenses, as well as ten J-10 fighters and one nuclear-capable H-6 bomber.
However, what these new sanctions will actually mean is also unclear.
Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and other defense industry giants already face strict controls on sales to China of military and dual-use technologies that have both defense and commercial applications. It is also unlikely that Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies will back out of any deal with Taipei.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.