Chinese reactions to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan

Last Wednesday, the Obama Administration announced a $5.85 billion arms sales package to Taiwan, featuring upgrades for 145 of Taiwan’s F-16 A/B fighter jets. In this blog post, we highlight the contrast between China’s official responses to the arms deal, and reactions published in the Chinese media. The differences underscore some of the tensions and competing voices in China’s foreign policy establishment.



  • A subsequent 9/24 editorial recommends specific retaliatory measures: openly announce the suspension of military exchanges with the US, sanction American companies selling arms to Taiwan, cut imports from the US, and impose economic sanctions on Taiwan. Speculating on the possible consequences of such retaliation, the same Global Times editorial outlines reasons for China to be optimistic:

“First, arms sales rather than other issues will receive less support from Western media. For this reason, China will meet minimum criticism from the world when challenging the US. Second, the US is ready to face China’s retaliation. Considering the large scale of the arms sales this time, the possibility of the US to take countermeasures against China is slim. Third, the US usually plays a supportive role encouraging defiant provocations taken by China’s neighbors. China’s revenge against the US will receive political and diplomatic effects in the whole region without bullying others directly.”

  • The above sentiments were echoed in a forum hosted by the People’s Daily, the official paper of the Chinese Communist Party:
    • Peng Guangqian, PLA major general: “Those who harm China’s core interests should pay the matching price. Besides diplomatic protest, efforts are also needed in other aspects like bringing down the level of military communication and imposing sanctions.”
    • Li Li, National Defense University of the PLA: The arms deal “will exert a strong negative influence on the normal development of the bilateral relationship.”
    • Sun Zhe, Tsinghua University: “I think China’s reaction will be escalated gradually.” Whether or not the US decides to sell additional arms to Taiwan (i.e. the F-16 C/Ds) “will directly influence the strength of China’s actions.”

About risingpowers
Sigur Center for Asian Studies Elliott School of International Affairs The George Washington University

One Response to Chinese reactions to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan

  1. Perhaps the Chinese should read the reactions of Americans to Chinese arms sales to North Korea, Iran and Sudan.

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