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  • Back to Double Digits: China's Latest Defense Budget

    As the People’s Republic of China (PRC) prepares for the opening of the National People’s Congress and the unveiling of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan, the budget for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was announced. Military spending in 2011 would increase from 532.1 billion renminbi ($81 billion) in 2010 to 601.1 billion renminbi ($91.5 billion).

    This would represent a 12.7 percent increase from 2010 to 2011, compared with the 7.5 percent increase from 2009 to 2010, clearly suggesting that last year’s lower increase (single-digit rather than the annual double-digit increase of the last two decades) reflected the impact of the global economic downturn rather than a slowdown in Chinese defense spending.

    In examining Chinese claims regarding defense spending, few believe the figures provided. There is little transparency into what Chinese defense budgets include. More importantly, such aspects as space and cyberwarfare capabilities are almost certainly not included in Chinese defense budget figures, despite Chinese acknowledgement that these are of growing importance in PLA conceptions of future warfare. Thus, Chinese announcements of defense spending should be seen as establishing a baseline of what the PRC acknowledges it is spending on defense, as well as reflecting relative growth patterns.

    It should be noted that increases in Chinese defense spending are inevitable. China is the world’s second-largest economy, it is heavily reliant on imports of oil and raw materials to fuel that economy, and, consequently, China has increasingly global concerns and interests. The shift from a military focused on local defense to one with regional and even global reach will not come cheaply. Moreover, the PLA is increasingly focused on improving quality, in terms of both weapons sophistication and unit training. As the PLA acquires more advanced fighters, submarines, and tanks, equipment costs will rise; similarly, unit training (including fuel costs) will represent a growing percentage of PLA expenditures.

    What is most worrying is the lack of official transparency in the budget and China’s intended strategic purpose. Coupled with the continued and increasing assertiveness of China in the region—as reflected in the very recent incidents around the Senkaku/Diaoyutai (80 nautical miles off Palawan, Philippines) and around the disputed Spratly Islands—China has given little reason to assume anything but the worst about their intentions.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to Back to Double Digits: China's Latest Defense Budget

    1. George Colgrove, VA says:

      If we increase our defense budget by 12.7%, our increase will be roughly equal to the entire Chinese defense budget! With the US spending well over $700 billion and the Chinese spending under $100 billion, why are we so concerned? Their increase of $10 billion is equal to what the DoD admittedly lost in corrupt and fraudulent contracting or just simply a lack of oversight in the early years of the Afghanistan war. Come on.

      What make China dangerous (if you want to go that far) is that they can do far more with $91 billion than we can with $700 billion.

      The other big difference between them and us is that they have no debt. We crippled ourselves with a staggering $14.1 trillion and plan to go higher. China will take command, not because we did not spend enough. It is because we spent too much.

    2. Noshir Mehta, India says:

      China's claims regarding its defense spending can be trusted no more than its prating at India that it seeks to abide by the spirit of Panchsheel. Peaceful coexistence with India means, in Beijing, a need to maintain the status quo vis-a-vis the former.

      This Beijing achieves by enabling a nuclear-armed Pakistan, the aspirant military junta (with its own nuclear ambitions) in Burma, the Maoists in Nepal, and rebels (with links to any number of terrorist groups) in India's Northeast – even as it lays claim to Indian territory in Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh. China's words are betrayed by its actions as much as they are by its policy – which is terminally devoid of principle.

      China's defense spending is likely not merely to defend its interests – whether or not these lack legitimacy – but to enable such rogue states as Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran – to name just a few. It is now reaching out to the likes of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, the better to arm him against his own people, perhaps.

      China's intentions are actually quite clear – it is an aspirant power that considers the US a competitor, and a threat to its ambitions for greater power projection. Those ambitions have in no small part been fueled by US economic policy toward China since the time of Nixon; the eight years of the Clinton administration saw China greatly strengthened at India's expense…and to America's detriment.

      The US should indeed be concerned about the threat China poses to its own interests in the stability of the global system. A communist dictatorship devoid of principle that arms rogue states is not to be trusted with leadership of that system.

      While it can be 'contained' no more than the US, in the interests of realpolitik, can stop dealing with dictators, Beijing's statements should certainly never be accepted at face value by Washington, which should focus on building a closer relationship with its allies and potentially friendly regimes in Asia, Africa, and South America to stave off China's attempts to 'manage' global affairs.

    3. Pingback: Back to Double Digits: China’s Latest Defense Budget

    4. F.D. O'Toole, N says:

      I understand that Obama has gone golfing today so perhaps I am needlessly worried about our over-extended military…which, according to today's Wall Street Journal, is urged to get involved in the Libyan civil war. Worse still is the headline "GOP Prods Obama on Libya". What part of "If you touch it, you own it" doesn't the GOP understand?

      North Africa is a mess. The difference between North Africa and various carnage going on in Central Africa is that Libya has oil (2%) and North African refugees are swarming into southern Europe and onto their welfare roles. Isn't this Europe's problem? Aren't we shouldering too much of the world policeman role already?

      As for the oil, if the Obama administration would start issuing permits for Anwar and for US owned properties here in the US, there would be plenty of oil for all.

      Finally, we are being urged by Al Jazeera to get involved to show our good faith. What else do you need to know to stay out of this affair?

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