China has condemned the $716 billion defense spending bill signed by U.S. President Donald Trump Monday, claiming it “exaggerated Sino-U.S. antagonism.”
Beijing issued three separate statements about the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act inked by the president at Fort Drum, against the backdrop of an Apache helicopter and artillery pieces.
“America is respected again,” Trump said. “With this new authorization we will increase the size and strength of our military by adding thousands of new recruits to active duty.” In his 20-minute address, Trump refused to mention the name of terminally-ill McCain, who has been critical of president.
The bill received widespread bipartisan backing in Congress, amid a growing acknowledgment that the U.S. is facing an increased threat from Russia and China.
The bill is considered particularly tough on China, targeting several areas of concern for the Pentagon, including the increased Chinese military activity in the South China Sea, Beijing’s pursuit of cutting-edge U.S. technology and the spread of Communist Party propaganda at American institutions.
China’s commerce, defense and foreign ministries all issued statements slamming the bill’s proposals.
The commerce ministry focused on a ban on Chinese telecommunications giants Huawei and ZTE. The U.S. government and government contractors will now largely be blocked from using the companies’ products in the future, though in non-critical systems some products will still be allowed.
China’s foreign ministry pointed out that the act was passed despite Beijing’s strong objections, and it was dissatisfied with the “negative content related to China.”
And the defense ministry hit out at the Pentagon’s continuing military support for Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a wayward province. “We will never let any person, at any time or in any form split Taiwan off from China,” the ministry said.
Here’s what else you need to know about the defense spending bill:
- It was signed very early — Monday’s signing marked the first on-time passage of the annual bill in 22 years. It doesn’t go into effect until Oct. 1, the beginning of the 2019 fiscal year, but in the last two years the defense bill hasn’t been signed until December.
- More but less — While the bill provides for an additional $16 billion compared to last year, in real terms the 2.23 percent increase is actually a reduction, given the 2.46 percent rise in inflation.
- More troops — The new act provides for the hiring of 15,600 additional troops across the armed services, but given there is already 1.3 million active duty personnel on the books, the extra numbers won’t make a huge difference. All troops will get a 2.6 percent pay rise.
- Hardware — The bulk of the money will go towards modernizing the armed forces. This includes the purchase of 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 13 new ships, including a fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier and a Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine. There will also be money for new Stryker A1 armored combat vehicles, 135 M1 Abrams tanks and 60 Bradley fighting vehicles. The Army National Guard will get six additional AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.
- Domestic violence — The bill contains a number of policies to address the issues of domestic violence, sexual abuse and child abuse among the military. It establishes domestic violence as a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and allows victims of sexual violence to be transferred to a different unit much faster.
Cover image: Donald Trump speaks during a signing ceremony for the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 at Fort Drum, New York, on August 13, 2018. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)