Beijing has tried a raft of sanctions on the issue of US arms sales to Taiwan. It has withdrawn from the UN Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA), temporarily frozen Sino-US military exchanges, and warned representatives of US national defense companies based in China about the consequences of any such sales.
Beijing could dump its US dollar government bonds, pull back on its diplomatic relations with the US, and refuse to cooperate with the US in international multilateral organizations, but these approaches would all go against the spirit of the new type of “Great Power relationship” that Xi has recently said he wishes to see between the two powers.
Sino-US military relations cannot diverge from the “no conflict, no opposition, mutual respect and cooperation” of this new type of Great Power relationship. The two powers are potential adversaries, and despite the more than 90 channels of dialogue that exist between them, there remains a deficit of mutual trust.
Many Taiwanese seem to think that stronger Sino-US military exchanges means that the two countries will work together to control Taiwan. The biggest impact on the nation is going to be on the psychological level. The US is not that concerned about arms sales, it is up to the Taiwanese government to remind the US of its obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act, and of the six assurances that former US president Ronald Reagan made, while also showing a willingness to invest in and reinforce national defense capabilities.
Lin Cheng-yi is a research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of European and American Studies.
Translated by Paul Cooper