Beijing ‘strongly dissatisfied’ as Donald Trump signs defence act upping US support for Taiwan and scrutiny of foreign companies

Foreign ministry calls for ‘objective perspective’ from Washington after it says strategic competition with China is a ‘principal priority’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2018, 1:27pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2018, 11:03pm

Beijing has condemned US President Donald Trump for signing an act committing to stronger military support for Taiwan and placing Chinese companies under closer scrutiny, saying the move will damage the countries’ ties.

In a statement released on its website, the foreign ministry said Beijing was “strongly dissatisfied” with Trump signing the defence act.

It said the US should “abandon its cold war mindset and zero-sum philosophy and view China and Sino-US relations in an objective perspective”.

It urged the US not to implement the “negative contents related to China so as not to cause damages in Sino-US relations and bilateral cooperation in key areas”.

In a separate statement, China’s defence ministry condemned the act for its “cold war mentality”.

The act “has jeopardised the development atmosphere in the relations between the Chinese and American militaries and hampered the mutual trust and cooperation between China and the US,” said Wu Qian, the defence ministry spokesperson.

“The Chinese military is firmly opposed [to the act] and has lodged a serious protect with the US side.”

Reiterating Beijing’s opposition to any official and military ties with Taiwan, Wu urged the US to “deal with Taiwan-related issues with prudence to avoid harm to the military relations of the two countries as well as cross-strait stability”.

But Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said the self-ruled island would boost defence spending and said Taiwan was grateful for US support.

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The statements were in response to the latest US National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), detailing US$716 billion in defence spending and stating that the “long-term strategic competition with China” is “a principal priority for the US”.

That requires a “whole of government” strategy, incorporating diplomatic, economic, intelligence, law enforcement and military elements, to protect and strengthen national security, the defence act states.

And in a move that could anger Beijing, the legislation provides that the US should enhance support for the military capacity of Taiwan, the self-ruled island which Beijing considers a breakaway province to be taken back by force if necessary.

“The United States should strengthen defence and security cooperation with Taiwan to support the development of capable, ready and modern defence forces necessary for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defence capability,” the act states.

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Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a report last year that the island’s military needs to focus on developing precision strike weapons to increase overall combat efficiency, acquiring information, communications and electronic countermeasure equipment, and reviewing the use of innovative tactics to gain battlefield superiority in information operations and electronic warfare.

Beijing has long opposed any official exchanges between Washington and Taipei.

Without mentioning specifics, the Chinese foreign ministry urged the US to respect its one China principle, which argues that Taiwan is part of China.

The act, signed into law on Monday, comes at a time when Beijing and Washington are locked in an intensifying trade war that shows no signs of abating.

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The John S. McCain National Defence Authorisation Act – named after the Arizona senator, who is battling brain cancer – broadens the scope of the committee that reviews foreign investments in the US for national security concerns.

In a separate statement earlier on Tuesday, China’s commerce ministry said it would conduct a comprehensive assessment of the bill, which includes watered-down controls on US government contracts with China’s ZTE and Huawei Technologies.

Lu Xiang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that using stronger rhetoric about China could be a means for the Pentagon to seek an increase to a budget that was under strict control during the Barack Obama era.

“Now the Pentagon planners believe it is good timing to ask for a bigger budget and they have to find some excuse, and it was China,” he said.

Any miscalculations over Taiwan, a core issue in Sino-US relations, would be disastrous for the countries’ ties, Lu said.

“China would definitely react if official ties [between Washington and Taipei] took a step forward,” he said. “Any concrete actions could cause uncontrollable damage.”

Additional reporting by Lawrence Chung