China’s fury at arms sale to Taiwan

Is China overreacting to U.S. arms sale to Taiwan?

The U.S. has fallen back into an “outrageous Cold War mentality,” said Wen Xian in Beijing’s People’s Daily. In direct defiance of “China’s firm, resolute opposition,” the U.S. government last week approved a sale of $6.4 billion in weapons to Taiwan, including anti-missile systems, attack helicopters, minesweeping ships, and communications gear. The U.S. contention that the sale will ensure stability in the region is “sheer outrageous moral hypocrisy.” China of late has been taking tremendous steps toward “peaceful reunification with Taiwan,” which broke away from the mainland in the 1949 civil war. Over the past year, China and Taiwan have opened mail and shipping routes for the first time. The arms sale undermines that rapprochement. If the U.S. doesn’t revoke this decision, it will “eventually pay for its evildoing.”

Whatever the Chinese government does in response to this aggression—no matter how “vehement”—is justified, said China’s Daily in an editorial. The arms sale is a clear breach of promise. The “cornerstone of Sino-U.S. relations” has long been a 1982 joint communiqué in which the U.S. pledged to reduce its sales of weapons to Taiwan. So much for that. And so much for Barack Obama’s insistence that he is not seeking to restrain China. The U.S. is obviously bent on using Taiwan “as an unsinkable aircraft carrier to contain China.” At the very least, our government should suspend military ties with the U.S. and impose sanctions on U.S. companies that supply weapons to Taiwan. “No country worthy of respect can sit idle while its national security is endangered and core interests damaged.”

China’s hysterical reaction is quite troubling, said Mark MacKinnon in Canada’s Globe and Mail. The fact is, the arms package approved last week is not substantively different from previous arms sales to Taiwan. China’s “unprecedented” threat to slap sanctions on companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin is a clear sign of how much “ties with the Obama administration have deteriorated.” The two countries were already at odds over Iran’s nuclear program, and then the U.S. accused China of cyberattacks on American websites, particularly Google. Now, with this furor over the arms sale to Taiwan, relations have “plunged to their lowest point in nearly a decade.”

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This whole flap is really about Google, said John Garnaut in Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald. Ever since the Obama administration came out in support of Google’s protest against Chinese censorship, China has produced “a deluge of reports about America’s ‘ulterior’ motives.” But Chinese authorities had to tread carefully, because cyberfreedom is “an issue that chafes many of China’s 380 million Internet users.” The Taiwan arms sale was a gift for the “Chinese propaganda system.” After all, it looks better to complain about U.S. arms sales than to gripe about U.S. opposition to censorship.

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