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Keith Krach (top C), U.S. undersecretary of State, greeted by Taiwanese political delegates at Sungshan Arport in Taipei on Sept. 17. Photo: Pei Chen/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

China late Friday flew at least 19 fighter jets and bombers into Taiwan airspace — just ahead of a series of meetings between a senior American diplomat and leaders of the self-ruled island, according to the R.O.C Ministry of National Defense.

Why it matters: The Chinese military display during Undersecretary of State Keith Krach's visit, the highest-ranking State Department official to visit the island since the U.S. cut ties with Taipei in 1979, comes as a warning to Taiwan and the U.S. about their increasing political and military cooperation, the New York Times reports.

  • Taiwan's status is one of the most sensitive issues between the U.S. and China. Beijing considers the island part of Chinese territory, while the U.S. and Taiwan share a robust, though unofficial, relationship and have committed to assisting the island in maintaining its defensive capabilities.

Context: The State Department said earlier this week that Krach was traveling to the island to attend a memorial service former President Lee Teng-hui, who died in July, according to the Wall Street Journal.

  • The visit also came amid reports that the Trump administration plans to sell Taiwan $7 billion worth of weapons to bolster its defenses, the Financial Times and WSJ reported.
  • The deal, which includes cruise missiles, mines and drones, would be the second largest package of weapons provided to Taiwan by the U.S. following a $8 billion arms deal in 2019.

What they're saying: “Those who play with fire are bound to get burned,” Senior Col. Ren Guoqiang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, said at a briefing in Beijing, according to the NYT.

  • He added that the U.S. deepening its relationship with Taiwan amounts to what he called “collusion.”

The big picture: Beijing recently conducted large-scale aerial and maritime exercises southwest of Taiwan, characterizing the drills as "legitimate and necessary for the mainland to protect its sovereignty and integrity," the BBC reports.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: As the Trump administration moves toward closer ties with Taiwan, the Chinese government is signaling that it will meet each U.S. measure with a countermeasure of its own.

Go deeper

Jul 13, 2020 - World

China-Iran deal envisions massive investments from Beijing

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

China and Iran have negotiated a deal that would see massive investments flow into Iran, oil flow out, and collaboration increase on defense and intelligence.

Why it matters: If the proposals become reality, Chinese cash, telecom infrastructure, railways and ports could offer new life to Iran’s sanctions-choked economy — or, critics fear, leave it inescapably beholden to Beijing.

Sep 1, 2020 - World

China is censoring Hollywood's imagination

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China's economic carrots and sticks are putting pressure on Hollywood to produce films that might soar in the country's box office — and avoid those that may displease Beijing.

The big picture: By censoring American blockbusters, Beijing believes it can prevent American and global audiences from imagining the Chinese Communist Party as a major threat, and from viewing the targets of China's repression as victims worthy of sympathy.

White House says it expects federal contractors to be vaccinated by Dec. 8

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House said in new guidance Friday that it expects millions of federal contractors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus no later than Dec. 8.

Why it matters: Companies with federal contractors have been waiting for formal guidance from the White House before requiring those employees to get vaccinated, according to Reuters.