China sanctions 5 US defence companies in response to US sanctions and arms sales to Taiwan

China announced sanctions on Sunday on five American defence companies in response to US arms sales to Taiwan and US sanctions on Chinese companies and individuals.

The sanctions will freeze any property the companies have in China and prohibit organisations and individuals in China from doing business with them, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted online.

It was unclear what impact, if any, the sanctions would have on the companies, BAE Systems Land and Armaments, Alliant Techsystems Operations, AeroVironment, ViaSat and Data Link Solutions.

Such sanctions are often mostly symbolic as American defence contractors generally don’t sell to China.

The Foreign Ministry said the US moves harmed China’s sovereignty and security interests, undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and violated the rights and interests of Chinese companies and individuals.

The announcement was made less than a week ahead of a presidential election in Taiwan that is being contested in large part over how the government should manage its relationship with China, which claims the self-governing island as its territory and says it must come under its rule.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not specify which arms deal or which US sanctions China was responding to, though spokesperson Wang Wenbin had warned three weeks ago that China would take countermeasures following the US government’s approval of a USD 300 million military package for Taiwan in December.

The deal includes equipment, training and equipment repair to maintain Taiwan’s command, control and military communications capabilities.

The US said the sale would support the modernisation of Taiwan’s armed forces and the maintenance of a credible defence.

Taiwan is a major flashpoint in US-China relations that analysts worry could explode into military conflict between the two powers. China says that US arms sales to Taiwan are interference in its domestic affairs.

The Chinese military regularly sends fighter planes and ships into and over the waters around Taiwan, in part to deter the island’s government from declaring formal independence. An invasion doesn’t appear imminent, but the constant military activity serves as a reminder that the threat is ever-present.

The US switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, but it is bound by its own laws to ensure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself. America and its allies sail warships through the Taiwan Strait, a 160-kilometer (100-mile) -wide waterway that separates the island from China.