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US intelligence finding shows China surging equipment sales to Russia to help war effort in Ukraine

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China has surged sales to Russia of machine tools, microelectronics and other technology that Moscow in turn is using to produce missiles, tanks, aircraft and other weaponry for use in its war against Ukraine, according to a US assessment.

Two senior Biden administration officials, who discussed the sensitive findings Friday on the condition of anonymity, said that in 2023 about 90 per cent of Russia’s microelectronics came from China, which Russia has used to make missiles, tanks and aircraft.

Nearly 70 per cent of Russia’s approximately USD 900 million in machine tool imports in the last quarter of 2023 came from China.

Chinese and Russian entities have also been working to jointly produce unmanned aerial vehicles inside Russia, and Chinese companies are likely providing Russia with nitrocellulose needed to make propellants weapons, the officials said.

Beijing is also working with Russia to improve its satellite and other space-based capabilities for use in Ukraine, a development the officials say could in the longer term increase the threat Russia poses across Europe. The officials, citing downgraded intelligence findings, said the US has also determined that China is providing imagery to Russia for its war on Ukraine.

The officials discussed the findings as Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to travel to China this month for talks. President Joe Biden has previously raised his concerns directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping about Beijing indirectly supporting Russia’s war effort. While China has not provided direct lethal military support for Russia, it has backed it diplomatically in blaming the West for provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch the war and refrained from calling it an invasion in deference to the Kremlin. China has also said it isn’t providing Russia with arms or military assistance, although it has maintained robust economic connections with Moscow, alongside India and other countries, amid sanctions from Washington and its allies.

Xi met in Beijing on Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who heaped praise on Xi’s leadership.

Russia’s growing economic and diplomatic isolation has made it increasingly reliant on China, its former rival for leadership of the Communist bloc during the Cold War.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who returned to Washington this week from a visit to Beijing, said she warned Chinese officials that the Biden administration was prepared to sanction Chinese banks, companies and Beijing’s leadership, if they assist Russia’s armed forces with its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The Democratic president issued an executive order in December giving Yellen the authority to sanction financial institutions that aided Russia’s military-industrial complex.

“We continue to be concerned about the role that any firms, including those in the PRC, are playing in Russia’s military procurement,” Yellen told reporters, using the initials for the Peoples Republic of China.

“I stressed that companies, including those in the PRC, must not provide material support for Russia’s war and that they will face significant consequences if they do. And I reinforced that any banks that facilitate significant transactions that channel military or dual-use goods to Russia’s defense industrial base expose themselves to the risk of US sanctions.”

Meanwhile, China on Thursday announced rare sanctions against two US defence companies over what it called their support for arms sales to Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy Beijing claims as its own territory to be recovered by force if necessary.

The announcement freezes the assets of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems held within China. It also bars the companies’ management from entering the country.

Filings show General Dynamics operates a half-dozen Gulfstream and jet aviation services operations in China, which remains heavily reliant on foreign aerospace technology even as it attempts to build its own presence in the field.

The company also helps make the Abrams tank being purchased by Taiwan to replace outdated armour intended to deter or resist an invasion from China.

General Atomics produces the Predator and Reaper drones used by the US military.

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