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This Day In History: The U.S. Announced That They Were Ready To Sell Military Equipment To Communist China

January 24, 2017

This day in history, U.S. officials announced that America was ready to sell military equipment, except for weapons, to communist China. This was done in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December of 1979. The statement was part of the U.S. effort to build a closer relationship with the People’s Republic of China for use as leverage against possible Soviet aggression.

Though the equipment provided to China would be limited to non-weapon material related to areas such as transportation and communications, the step was a significant one in terms of the developing U.S.-China relationship. The timing of the announcement so close to the Soviet intervention was no coincidence. As one U.S. official noted, that action “sped up or catalyzed the process.”

The Carter administration’s decision to sell military equipment to communist China only a year after establishing diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China was an indication of just how seriously the United States government viewed the Soviet attack on Afghanistan. The U.S. response to the Soviet Union was multi-faceted and forceful, including diplomatic broadsides, economic sanctions, and even boycotting the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow. Many political analysts believed that the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan was a diplomatic error, as it virtually ended any talk of detente with the United States.

The U.S. Congress, on the same day, approved most-favored-nation trading status for China. In addition, an agreement was signed for the construction of a station in China that would be able to receive information from an American satellite. The information would aid China in fields such as agriculture and mining.