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English>>Foreign Affairs

Arms sales add fuel to regional security dilemma

(Global Times)

08:25, August 17, 2012

The issue of US arms sales to Taiwan remains a source of tension in the US-China relationship even today, 30 years since the third and final joint communiqué between China and the US.

The Chinese mainland has, historically, strongly protested against US arms sales to Taiwan. However, while the Chinese mainland sees US arms sales as a violation of the three China-US joint communiqués, from the US perspective, arms sales to Taiwan are guaranteed by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

Until that law changes, Beijing's anger will have little impact. The Chinese mainland's anger over arms sales to Taiwan is now seen as routine and predictable by US policymakers.

In fact, they see the Chinese mainland's retaliatory actions, such as canceling military-to-military exchanges, as hurting China more than they hurt the US.

Nowadays, there is a high degree of interdependence between China and the US. However, interdependence plays a very limited role in regard to US arms sales to Taiwan.

The arms sales generally have a negative impact on Chinese mainland public opinion toward the US, but they do not change the dynamic of the overall bilateral relationship, especially when it comes to flows of trade and investment.

Washington recognizes the importance of the US-China bilateral relationship and it understands how the Chinese mainland views arms sales to Taiwan.

However, most US policymakers believe that the mainland is not willing or able to impose high costs on the US in response to their arms sales to Taiwan.

"Abandoning Taiwan" also carries reputational costs that most US politicians are not willing to take. As China's economy grows, the reputational costs associated with "sacrificing" Taiwan to placate a more powerful China will only increase.

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