Chinese firms could face sanctions if Beijing sends arms to Russia


When U.S. officials looked for ways to punish Iran for supplying Russia with drones for the war in Ukraine, they soon encountered a problem: The Iranian manufacturer of the pilotless aircraft had already been hit with Washington’s toughest financial penalties.

But, the officials learned, the drone maker’s Chinese suppliers had not been. So the Treasury Department this month placed five Chinese companies and one of their employees on a blacklist, freezing their assets in the United States and barring U.S. companies or individuals from doing business with them.

The Chinese network was responsible for the sale and shipment of “thousands of aerospace components” to Iran, including some that can be used in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as those that ended up in Russia, Treasury said.

More sanctions against Chinese manufacturers could be on the way. The Biden administration warned recently that China, for the first time, had been considering the provision of lethal aid to the Russian military. On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow for three days of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a range of subjects, including the war in Ukraine.

The United States would likely respond to a stepped-up Chinese military aid effort by punishing the specific Chinese companies and financial institutions involved, as it did earlier this month, analysts said. Any U.S. sanctions in response to Chinese arms shipments are likely to be more limited than the crushing package deployed against the Russian economy last year after Russia invaded Ukraine.

“I do think this move is indicative of the direction of U.S. sanctions policy,” said Edward Fishman of Columbia University, a former State Department official. “For months, U.S. officials have made clear that they would use sanctions against any firm involved in aiding Russia’s military-industrial complex, regardless of where the firm is located. They have made good on this threat.”

U.S. officials have said they have intelligence indicating that Beijing is considering providing arms to Russia, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned would be “a serious problem” for relations with Washington. So far, Xi has confined his support for Moscow to rhetorical backing and an offer to broker a peaceful settlement with Ukraine, which the government in Kyiv has rejected as a nonstarter.

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On Monday, as Xi and Putin met in Moscow for more than four hours, John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, said it remained unclear whether Beijing planned to provide lethal arms to its ally. “We still don’t believe that China has taken it off the table. We still don’t believe and haven’t seen any indication that they’re moving in that direction,” Kirby said.

Fresh U.S. sanctions on any Chinese companies, banks or officials involved in such a move would aggravate an already troubled economic relationship between the United States and China that faces several immediate threats.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is scheduled to visit the United States next month, brushing aside…

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