The Trump administration imposed sanctions on the Chinese military yesterday for buying fighter jets and missile systems from Russia, in breach of a questionable US law called Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
This is the first ever sanctioning under CAATSA. Previously, Turkey has been threatened with sanctions over its purchase of the S-400 while India may be granted a waiver for purchasing a similar Russian system.
The US State Department said it would immediately impose sanctions on China's Equipment Development Department (EDD), the branch of the Chinese military responsible for weapons and equipment, and its director, Li Shangfu, for engaging in "significant transactions" with Rosoboronexport, Russia's main arms exporter, Reuters reported.
The sanctions are related to China's purchase of 10 SU-35 combat aircraft in 2017 and S-400 surface-to-air missile system-related equipment in 2018, the State Department said. They block the Chinese agency, and Li, from applying for export licenses and participating in the US financial system.
It also adds them to the Treasury Department's list of specially designated individuals with whom Americans are barred from doing business.
Interestingly, China purchased both the S-400 and Su-35 before the CAATSA came into effect in 2018. Deliveries of both equipments have been completed and are in use by the Chinese armed forces for over a year now.
Since China is not a customer for US-made weaponry, the sanctions will have no impact on Chinese military preparedness nor will it impede its financial dealings with the Russians as Rosoboronexport has been sanctioned by the US administration even before the CAATSA’s passage. China and Russia are working on a payments system bypassing the US financial system.
The immediate provocation for sanctioning the Chinese military appears to be the Peoples’ Liberations Army’s participation in Russia’s biggest military exercise last week. In addition, China is looking at joint equipment development and marketing with Russia. China has been announced as a partner country in next year’s MAKS 2019 air show in Moscow, suggesting closer cooperation between the two giants in the military and aviation sphere.