US defense bill takes aim at China's growing influence

May 24, 2019 09:29
A defense bill put forward by a US Senate panel would authorize the Pentagon to buy more Lockheed Martin F-35 jets to bolster the nation's military might. Photo: Reuters

The US Senate Armed Services Committee unveiled a draft bill on Thursday that targets China on several fronts, from stemming the erosion of the US military advantage against Beijing to countering the growing Chinese influence around the world, Reuters reports.

The US$750-billion proposal would also authorize the US military to buy more Lockheed Martin F-35 jets and fully fund a program to modernize the American nuclear weapon arsenal, the report said.

The committee acknowledged that “our margin of military supremacy has eroded and is undermined by new threats from strategic competitors like China and Russia.”

The panel addressed what Congress sees as the threat from China, including stricter reporting of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” international lending program.

The bill would require the creation of a list of Chinese institutions and companies with any links to its military, to be used for screening visa applications for students and researchers.

“A lot of universities just don’t have the information about whether research they’re conducting is under threat,” a senior committee aide told reporters.

Many US universities work on research with military applications and American officials worry about intellectual property theft coming from China.

The annual bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, is several steps from becoming law.

Next month, the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, controlled by Democrats, is due to release its own draft version.

Then the two committees must come up with a single, compromise version before it can be passed, Reuters noted.

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