Sino-US tensions intensify after Beijing postpones military talks

China’s top naval officer cancels talks with US top brass over US decision to impose sanctions for China’s purchase of Russian weapons

US secretary of defence James Mattis: “We believe that we do have to have a relationship with China.”  Photograph: Reuters

US secretary of defence James Mattis: “We believe that we do have to have a relationship with China.” Photograph: Reuters

 

There are signs that Sino-US tensions are intensifying after Beijing postponed military talks with Washington in protest over the US decision last week to impose sanctions for China’s purchase of Russian weapons.

The defence ministry in Beijing said it would recall its highest ranking naval officer, Shen Jinlong, from a visit to the US, and postpone planned talks between military top brass that had been scheduled for next week at the International Seapower Symposium at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

The world’s two largest economies are currently embroiled in a trade war that has increased tensions between the countries. Washington is also monitoring China’s modernisation of its military, and has criticised China’s growing presence in the South China Sea.

Last week the US state department imposed sanctions on the equipment development department of the People’s Liberation Army after it bought 10 SU-35 fighter jets in 2017 and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems in 2018 from Rosoboronexport, Russia’s main arms exporter.

The sanctions were imposed under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act which was signed into law in 2017 to punish Russia for interfering in US elections, aggression in Ukraine and for Moscow’s involvement in Syria’s civil war.

Defence secretary Jim Mattis said he was trying to find a way forward with China. “We believe that we do have to have a relationship with China, and secretary [of state Mike] Pompeo and I are of one mind on this,” Mr Mattis said. “And so we’re sorting out the way ahead right now.”

Tit-for-tat tariffs

Meanwhile, Chinese state media has responded to the latest round of tit-for-tat tariffs in the trade war between the two countries, with the nationalist Global Times issuing a stirring editorial saying no country was able to take China down.

The US has imposed tariffs of 10 per cent on $200 billion (€170bn) of Chinese products, which is due to increase to 25 per cent by the end of the year.

China has levied about $60 billion (€51bn) worth of tariffs in return. Previous to Monday’s round of tariffs the two sides had applied taxes of about $50 billion (€42.5bn) to each other’s goods.

“We also hope the Chinese public gets to know the causes and effects of the event, and the steadiness of the Chinese government’s policies. No matter how long China-US trade conflicts last, China is doing what it should. China is honest and principled, and a major trade power with intensive strengths. No one can take us down,” it said.

The China Daily said the trade dispute could escalate if the deadlock was not broken. “And the trade conflicts, if they escalate, will jeopardise interests on both sides, whose repercussions will be felt by the rest of the world.”