Jan 26, 2023
US Targets Chinese Company in Broader Russia Sanctions Push
(Bloomberg) -- The US unveiled new sanctions Thursday aimed at blunting Russia’s ability to wage war in Ukraine, including by targeting a Chinese company that allegedly provided satellite imagery to Wagner Group mercenaries.
The Treasury Department singled out Spacety China and its Luxembourg subsidiary for providing “satellite imagery orders over locations in Ukraine” to a Russian technology company, enabling Wagner combat operations. Wagner, a pro-Kremlin paramilitary organization, has sent thousands of its own fighters as well as ex-prisoners, to Ukraine.
There was no indication that China’s government was aware of the role played by Spacety, also known as Changsha Tianyi Space Science and Technology Research Institute Co. Ltd. In its online literature, Spacety describes itself as a “fast growing private new space company” that mass-manufactures “low cost nano/micro/small satellites.” The company didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.
At the same time, the Biden administration has grown increasingly concerned about what it sees as Chinese companies’ actions that may be supporting Russia over its conflict in Ukraine. People familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News that the US has confronted China’s government over the issue.
Read more: US Confronts China Over Companies’ Ties to Russia War Effort
Officials are still trying to gauge how China might respond to evidence of Chinese companies aiding the Russian war effort, said Jacob Stokes, a former Obama administration foreign policy adviser.
“Apparent violations by Chinese companies raise the question of whether China is intentionally trying to test the limits of America’s policy, or whether Beijing simply lacks the capacity to police Chinese firms across a range of industries,” said Stokes, a senior fellow focused on US-China relations at the Center for a New American Security.
The sanctions were part of a broader package announced Thursday against Wagner, as well as on individuals and entities in Russia’s defense sector. As it promised last week, the Biden administration formally designated Wagner a transnational criminal organization as it looks to blunt the group’s operations beyond Ukraine.
At a hearing Thursday on Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the rest of the world, lawmakers urged the administration to do more to help Ukraine. They also zeroed in on China, with Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, citing what he said was evidence that Chinese companies have been exporting dual-use technologies “that Russia needs to continue its onslaught of Ukraine.”
“It seems to me that we should not forsake the potential of sanctions against China if it is providing critical assistance, and it shouldn’t be able to hide behind some companies,” he told Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland.
Nuland said that even before the invasion, the administration has had intense conversations with China “with regard to their relationship with Russia.” President Xi Jinping has avoided criticizing Russia over the war but has also offered to play a role in peace talks and come out against the use of nuclear weapons in the conflict.
“We’ve made clear that we will bring to their attention when we see sanctions violations by their companies,” Nuland said. “And we’ve been very clear with regard to the impact on our relationship and their standing in the world.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was on Capitol Hill on Thursday briefing lawmakers about the administration’s approach to China, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. Blinken is set to travel to Beijing in early February.
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