Wednesday May 27, 2020


August 2, 2011

With an increase in economic & social dialogues between mainland China and Taiwan, cross-Strait relations have improved quickly and steadily in recent years. However, there is worry that this peaceful development may stall if the U.S. agrees to Taiwan’s latest request for F-16 C/Ds fighter jets.

The appeal from the Taiwanese government to purchase the new fighter jets has been met with strong opposition from both mainland China and U.S officials. China has been steadfast in opposing U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

“China will definitely react”, responded Major General Zhao Ning from the Air Attaché Office of the Chinese Embassy in U.S., “if the U.S. continues arms sales to Taiwan. This will strongly harm China-U.S. relations.” After the U.S. $6.4 billion arms package sale to Taiwan in 2009, China reacted by abruptly cutting off military talks. With the Chinese government’s recent condemnation of the fighter jets purchase, the U.S. is afraid that same pattern will appear, ending the recent positive progress in US-China military dialogues and deteriorating newly improved U.S.-China relations as a whole.

China believes in achieving agreements between the Strait through peaceful means and has asked for support from the international community. Many believe that with the steady advancements in current cross-Strait relations, the sale of fighter jets to Taiwan at this crucial point would be unwise. Some U.S. officials, when asked to respond to the same question, agreed with Zhao, “We strongly hold onto the one-China policy.”

Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou realizes the difficulty of purchasing F-16 C/Ds from U.S. – “With Washington and Beijing continuing to improve their relations, it has become increasingly more difficult for Taiwan to buy sophisticated weapons from the U.S.” Taiwan feels the need to increase national defense and security as China advances in its own military. Despite the difficulty of Taiwan’s buying of F-16 C/Ds, there is a possibility of the U.S. selling upgraded F-16 A/B jets to Taiwan, as analysts say that Beijing would be more willing to accept the latter.

Hesitation from the American side does not necessarily indicate less commitment to Taiwan, but more a fear of angering Beijing. The Obama administration has not responded yet to Taiwan’s request for arms, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has voiced that the U.S. will not make a decision on whether or not to accept a Taiwan letter of request for 66 new F-16 C/Ds until October 1.

For further insight on Cross-Strait relations, please see the USCPF’s most recent “China Forum” program, featuring Dr. Richard Bush and Dr. Robert Sutter.

For further information on U.S.-China-Taiwan relations, please see the following news sources and commentary:

Wall Street JournalSeeking an Answer on U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan”

Asia Times – Taiwan lowers its military sights”

Watch China Times – “Taiwan looks for soft landing on US fighter jet deal”

Xinhua“Chinese Official Meets with U.S. Secretary of State on Arms Sales to Taiwan”

For Chinese commentary, please see the following news sources:

Sina – “我驻美武官:美国若售台武器 中方必会做出反应”

人民网 “美国对台军售将损害中美关系大局”


Compiled and edited by Jingyi Zhao and Betsy Gass.