The Pentagon said Monday that the US State Department has approved sales of spare parts for F-16 fighters and other military planes to Taiwan. The proposed sale will be subject to Congressional approval, with little possibility of a veto.
The proposed $330 million sale is not a big sum compared with $1.42 billion sales to Taiwan last year by President Donald Trump and previous sales by his predecessors. However, China strongly opposes any arms sales to Taiwan. The proposed sale came on the same day that the US' 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese exports took effect. The US used to avoid making two such moves on the same day, but it doesn't care now.
Beijing has mastered a whole set of tactics against such arms sales, which will be adopted in accordance with the sales level. The latest proposed sale is not the most serious, but the past year has witnessed a tendency for the US to sell arms to Taiwan in smaller amounts and higher frequencies. Such sales used to occur once every few years.
If the US intends to pressure China with the proposed sale amid ongoing trade friction, it won't work. It's China's strategic determination to never make concessions in an unprincipled manner. The latest arms sales are not heavy enough to shake this determination the way Washington hopes.
Taiwan is an important front in efforts to bar the US from expanding the trade war into other fields. The mainland has been adequately prepared in this respect for any risks with a multitude of countermeasures. Beijing has sufficient strategic will and deterrence in the region. If the conflict escalates, the US will have lower chances of winning than in other areas.
The Chinese side sees both stepped-up arms sales to Taiwan and more military engagement with the island province as provocation. In response, Beijing will not only adopt head-on countermeasures, but take revengeful actions that make the US pay a price.
The Chinese mainland adheres to the policy of addressing the Taiwan question by peaceful means. If Taiwan authorities collude with Washington and touch upon the red line set by the Anti-Secession Law, the mainland will change its method. This deserves the attention of both the island of Taiwan and the US.
It's easier for the mainland to punish pro-independence activists in Taiwan than for the US to support them. As long as the Chinese mainland keeps growing stronger, Washington will find it harder to play the Taiwan card and Taiwan will be unable to bear a real crisis in the Taiwan Straits. Beijing should respond to the proposed sale in just the way it used to, without reading too much into it. Amid frictions between China and the US, we Chinese need to see clearly the big picture and take precise and powerful measures.