The imposition of sanctions to achieve specific objectives has become a frequent policy instrument used by the United States in its bilateral relations with China. These sanctions range from the deprival of-and the attachment of conditions to-most-favored-nation (MFN) trading status for China and denials of technology transfers to the imposition of import tariffs. They have been imposed in response to “unacceptable” Chinese behavior over a variety of issues such as weapons proliferation, infringements on intellectual properly rights, and human rights violations. The effectiveness of these sanctions depends on a number of factors and will always remain a matter of degree. The paper suggests that applying sanctions such as threatening revocation and/or applying conditions to China’s MFN status has failed to serve their declared purposes. In the process, the United States has boxed itself in, as carrying through such threats is a highly risky business, while reversing course both suggests impotence and reduces credibility.