The US House Armed Services Committee has unanimously passed an annual £594 billion (US$741 billion) defence legislation on Wednesday. The National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) will not become legislation yet, but it shows Washington’s views on China, its global position and its antagonism of the US.
“Is there anybody in this room that does not believe that China is an adversary of the United States, has every plan possible to become a world power at our detriment?” enquired Representative Paul Mitchell, a Republican from Michigan.
“Is there anybody that doesn’t believe that?”
The board, which supervises military procedures approved the bill 56-0 just before midnight after almost 14 hours of discussions.
The legislation features a series of legislative bids from lawmakers of different political backgrounds.
Donald Trump clamps down on China threat with defence law
The proposals aim to challenge China on technology, scientific research and defence.
The bill includes a scheme to preserve the country’s rare earth metals supply chain as China leads the industry.
Another bid from lawmakers involves a joint intelligence report between Moscow and Beijing.
Eric Sayers, a former Asia policy adviser on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the committee’s backing of the programme was a “strong indication of the bipartisan energy behind this concept”.
Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China
Mr Sayers is now an adjunct senior fellow for the Asia-Pacific Security Programme at the Centre for a New American Security.
“This reflects a growing concern within the House Democrat caucus about the shifting military balance in the region,” he added.
At one point in the meeting, there was a discussion over whether the Defence Department should keep a record of foreign academics working on Pentagon-funded investigative projects at US universities.
“The department knows more about the tourists that visit the Pentagon or work at the Starbucks at any military installation than they do about who participates in these research projects,” said Representative Jim Banks, an Indiana Republican who put forward the proposal.
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After half an hour of debate the proposal was approved.
But the bill will potentially be discussed in the full House later this month.
The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its own variant on June 11.
It is has now been sent to the full Senate for deliberation.
The two chambers will finalise their editions before it passing it onto President Trump for authorisation.
On Tuesday, Trump took to Twitter to issue a threat of banning this year’s defence bill if it involves a directive that US military bases currently named after Confederate officers from the Civil War must be renamed.
Donald Trump has threatened to veto this year’s defence bill
He wrote: “I will Veto the Defense Authorisation Bill if the Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren (of all people!) Amendment, which will lead to the renaming (plus other bad things!) of Fort Bragg, Fort Robert E. Lee, and many other Military Bases from which we won Two World Wars, is in the Bill!”
Both the House and Senate versions do, but the caution is not being taken into account, since the NDAA usually approves Congress with large, vetoproof majorities.
The NDAA is a “must-pass” legislation – annual funding approval that Congress has passed for 59 consecutive years.
“I think Congress’s interest in China has been increasingly intense for several years, especially given the Trump Administration’s vacillating posture towards China,” said Algene Sajery, a former top Democratic staff aide to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and founder of Catalyst Global Strategies.
The NDAA, she said, “definitely reflects bipartisan consensus on foreign policy issues, such as how the US can counter China’s activities”.