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Beijing blasts US defense bill designed to check China

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Chinese military raising the flag
Chinese
military raising the Chinese flag


Elizabeth
Dalziel/AP



  • Beijing expressed last minute dissatisfaction Thursday
    as the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act made it to the
    President Trump.
  • The bill “shines a spotlight” on certain Chinese
    activities deemed unacceptable by US lawmakers, specifically
    China’s militarization of the South China Sea, efforts to
    influence public discourse, and attempts to invest in and
    acquire assets deemed essential to US national
    security.
  • China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs insists that the US
    “must not let this bill become law.”

Beijing pushed back Thursday after Congress passed the 2019
National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), insisting that this
bill which aims to curb malign Chinese activities must not become
law.

Noting that the Chinese government has made its position known
multiple times, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang
said, “We urge the US to discard its outdated cold-war and
zero-sum mentality.”

The US “must not let this bill containing negative
Chinese-related content become law,” he added, stressing that the
US risks “undermining China-US relations and cooperation.”

Consistent with the 2018 National Defense Strategy’s

focus
on “great power competition” and the growing
realization among lawmakers, military leaders, and intelligence
officials that China represents one of the greatest challenges to
US national interests, the NDAA is increasingly tough on
China.

The $716 billion defense bill passed the Senate Wednesday
in an 87-to-10 vote. Having already been approved by the House of
Representatives, the NDAA has been sent to the president for
signing.

The defense bill has China rattled because it “shines a
spotlight” on a lot of Chinese activities that China would
definitely prefer to not have pulled out of the shadows, Greg
Poling, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, told Business Insider.

“The NDAA focuses on a new fixture of our foreign policy —
our rivalry with China,” Poling explained, adding that there are
several sections dedicated to “naming and shaming”
Beijing.

With regard to the hotly-contested South China Sea, the
NDAA requires the Department of Defense to provide reports on new
Chinese installations and weapons deployments, highlighting
Chinese militarization of the disputed waterway and undermining
Beijing’s narrative.

Furthermore, the NDAA reinforces the Pentagon’s ban on
Chinese participation in the multilateral Rim of the Pacific
maritime exercises held every year. For the ban to be lifted,
China must not only halt all land reclamation activities (it
already has for the most part), but it must also remove weapons
systems from its outposts in the South China Sea. This provision
essentially equates to a permanent ban.

In recent months, China has deployed jamming technology,
surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and even
heavy bombers to Chinese outposts in the region. In response,
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis
accused
China of “intimidation and coercion” in the South
China Sea.

Rachael Burton, the deputy director at the Virginia-based
Project 2049 Institute,
told
The Wall Street Journal that the provisions of the NDAA
focused on the South China Sea are a “a signal to our allies and
partners in the region — particularly Australia, Japan and Taiwan
— that China’s activities in the South China Sea are not accepted
as normal.”

The NDAA also includes strong language on Chinese attempts
to influence public discourse, specifically China’s efforts to
influence “media, cultural institutions, business, and academic
and policy communities.” For instance, the NDAA limits Department
of Defense funding for Chinese language programs at US
universities that host Confucius Institutes, which have come
under increased scrutiny as potential player in the Chinese
government’s broader influence campaign.

In a potential blow to Chinese economic activities, the
bill also aims to strengthen the Committee on Foreign investment
in the US (CFIUS), which monitors Chinese investment in the US
and warns of possible threats to US national interests. There is
also an increased emphasis on countering Chinese espionage, a
longstanding threat.

China is “trying to position itself as the sole dominant
superpower. They’re trying to replace the United States in that
role,” FBI Director Christopher Wray
said
recently at the Aspen Security Forum, “I think China,
from a counterintelligence perspective, represents in many ways
the broadest, most challenging, most significant threat we face
as a country.”

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