The first time the Obama administration did a hatchet job on Boeing (NYSE:BA), it was just business. This time, it feels ... personal.

Strapped for cash back in April, but stuck with two wars to fight (and fund), Obama cut a mighty wide arc as he swung his budget axe. While it's true that Boeing took the brunt of the damage as first Airborne Laser, then the C-17 transport, and finally Future Combat Systems got cut or scaled back. Boeing wasn't the only target of Pentagon budget-cutting madness. Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) lost its prized Raptor fighter jets. Northrop Grumman's (NYSE:NOC) the Kinetic Interceptor ... 

In short, if Boeing was miserable, it had plenty of company. But not so today. This time, it's only Boeing bawling, as the administration snubs the nation's premier airplance builder in favor or improved relations with China.

Aiming to allay Chinese concerns that the U.S. isn't treating its products fairly, the president promised this week to "push for closer technical collaboration and eventual U.S. safety approval" for China's ARJ21 regional jet -- a plane not even China has yet certified as safe.

Now, as I explained back in September, ARJ21 does not pose an imminent threat to Boeing. Its small size makes this plane a more natural competitor to the small business jets built by General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) and Textron (NYSE:TXT). The fear, however, is that the president is setting a precedent -- one that will lead to preferential treatment for China's next big thing, a 160-seat airliner aimed squarely at the international Boeing-Airbus duopoly. China says its "C919" will offer operating costs fully 10% cheaper than those of comparable Western airliners -- which makes this impending airplane a real threat to Boeing's profits.

Why, O(bama), why?
So what's the deal here, folks? Does the president "have it in" for Boeing? Boeing shareholders must feel that way today, but if you think about it, there really is method to Mr. Obama's madness.

As president of all of America, Obama is charged with defending the economic interests of all companies. And with fully half the parts on the ARJ21 being "Made in the U.S.A." (and similar prospects for the C919), the president surely feels that even if the arrival of Chinese airliners is bad for Boeing ... it could be very good indeed for parts suppliers like Honeywell (NYSE:HON) and General Electric (NYSE:GE). Perhaps a few eggs need to be broken to spread out some business and improve already frosty trade relations with a rising superpower.

Small consolation to Boeing shareholders, to be sure. But at least we can take comfort in knowing: It's not personal. It's just business.

Fool contributor Rich Smith owns shares of Boeing. General Dynamics is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy would like to trade you our fish airplane tray for the chicken, and we'll throw in a bag of peanuts.