China signals rewards for Obama after he backed down on sale to Taiwan of advanced F-16s

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By Willy Lam,

As expected, the Barack Obama administration announced on Sept. 21 that it will help Taiwan upgrade its arsenal of old F16 jetfighters — but not sell the island stronghold sophisticated F16-Cs and F16-Ds that Taipei has requested since 2006.

This is despite repeated denials by senior American officials that Washington has succumbed to pressure from the Chinese Communist Party administration, which still regards Taiwan as a breakaway province. For example Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said in August that Washington would not “let China dominate our thinking, planning, and force posture decisions” regarding American presence in the Asia-Pacific.
In return for Washington’s apparent show of restraint, Beijing has dropped strong hints that while it will go through rituals of vociferous protests, no substantial damage to Sino-U.S. ties will be done.

Top American experts quoted by the official Chinese media, such as Fudan University’s Professor Wu Xinbo, have indicated that Beijing would consider the sale of F16C/Ds as an instance of “the U.S. stepping on China’s red line.” Merely upgrading old weapons, however, would apparently be treated differently.

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