US arms sales to Taiwan strain cross-straight relations

In response to the American arms sales to Taiwan, China has taken a firm, opposing stance. Noting the pre-existing political tension between the Unites States and China, a number of theories have been proposed as to how China will retaliate to the arms deals. Beijing has still not made any official comment on the sales.

U.S.-China relations have already been strained because of a mixture of trade agreements and censorship of the Internet. According to a BBC report, China currently has pointed hundreds of missiles at Taiwan, threatening to fire them if the island attempts to liberate itself.

“The U.S. has built up a massive trade deficit with China,” the BBC report said. “The U.S. argues that this is partly because China has kept its currency artificially weak, which makes its products cheaper overseas.”

According to Chris Buckley and Ben Blanchard of Reuters, China could respond in one of several ways.

“The most likely and immediate consequence will be that China again freezes military ties with the United States, which had been thawing since 2009,” wrote Buckley and Blanchard, “as the Obama administration sought to expand contacts between the Pentagon and the People’s Liberation Army.”

Bruce Lemkin, a deputy with the U.S.Air Force, claims China should not be surprised by the arms sales to Taiwan. According to Lemkin, China has been implored to initiate talks with Beijing to pacify tensions.

The People’s Liberation Army has approximately 1.25 million members, making it the world’s largest army. China’s military spending began to rise in the 1990’s, and in the late 2000’s it peaked at over 4 billion yuan annually. Accounting for conversion rates, the Chinese budget that year amounts to roughly one-ninth of U.S. military spending.

Buckley and Blanchard claim that the Chinese also might respond to United States weapons trade with Taiwan through economic warfare. In October, China replaced Japan as the country holding the highest number of U.S. Treasuries, with the United States owing China $798.9 billion.

The Chinese have not suggested in any way that they might use this debt to harm the U.S. in response to the Taiwan arms deals. If such actions were taken, it could seriously affect not only the U.S., but also the global economy.

In the absence of a reply from Beijing, Buckley and Blanchard have postulated the effects on global politics. They claim China might respond diplomatically, by prioritizing relations with other countries above the U.S. in terms of foreign policy. Among the nations that might supplant the United States in importance is Iran.

“These types of sales are between governments, we can’t control them,” said Randy Tinseth, vice-president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “It’s too early to speculate on what the impact might be at the end.