BEIJING, March 8 (ChinaMil) -- There are many hot topics during China's "two sessions", with the national defense budget drawing the closest attention both at home and abroad.
Generally speaking, China has a weak national defense and military foundation that features a small scale and a lot of deficiencies, but China has to elevate the national defense capability to a level commensurate with its national strength and international standing through the national defense and military reform, so that it can deal with the political and military situation in the international arena.
Therefore, China has to keep its national defense budget growing at an appropriate rate both now and for a period to come. In 2016, for instance, military expenditure has to increase for the following purposes.
First, reform of military system.
This round of military reform is unprecedented, whereby not only the troops will be reduced, but the military system and structure will be considerably adjusted and combat forces adapting to IT-based warfare will be established. The massive reform and change of the military has to be supported by military expenditure.
For instance, to install the new theater commanding system, the former C4ISR system (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) has to be adjusted, which involves a whole set of IT guarantee systems including computers, commanding links and sensors at the various commanding organs.
Another example is the establishment of new combat forces. New combat forces such as the army aviation troop, special operations force, strategic support force and combat support force have to develop both in quality and quantity in order to form advantages in those aspects, which cannot be accomplished without years of continuous input.
Second, reduction of 300,000 troops.
The troops that will be cut are mainly non-combatant units and personnel, including officers, non-ranking cadres and non-commissioned officers. If their per capita employment subsidy is 300,000 yuan, a total of dozens of billion yuan has to be paid.
Some of the service members (roughly 100,000) have to move out of the military apartments they used to occupy and buy houses where they live. Assuming that the current housing price is 10,000 yuan/sq. m on average and the size of each apartment is 80 sq. m, the total expense on 100,000 apartments will be around 100 billion yuan. These two outlays will amount to an immense sum.
Third, procurement of equipment.
Everybody knows that the more technologically advanced the equipment, the higher the procurement cost, but most people don't know how high the cost can be.
I once made a comparison of the Type-99 main battle tank (MBT), Type-96 tank and Type-59 tank, which cost 18 million, 6 million and 0.6 million (in the late stage) respectively. This is just one of the examples for equipment procurement.
According to my rough estimation, the procurement cost for the first-, second- and third-generation equipment has increased at the rate of 1:10:30, so the saying that "the cannon is fired with gold" is no exaggeration.
Fourth, infrastructure construction.
China's future warfare will be self-defensive in nature. According to China's strategic guideline and warfare scheme, forces in all strategic and combat directions have to be enhanced in peacetime, especially the main directions.
After 5 Theater Commands are established, each of them will integrate the resources of various services and enhance battlefield construction in the land, sea and airspace of their corresponding directions. The construction of those facilities will cost a large sum of capital.
Fifth, per capita expense.
The expense here only refers to HR training expenses, namely the expense on education and training, of which we will focus on the training expense of the troops. Some foreign media and military experts always say that the Chinese troops are not well trained. Why? An important reason is the insufficient training fund.
Take flight training for example. American and Japanese pilots fly 180-240 hours a year, and veteran pilots of the U.S. Navy have to land on aircraft carrier for 3,000-4,000 times and fly 6,000-7,000 hours during their service term. Such intensive and difficult training has to be supported by sufficient military fund.
In comparison, Chinese pilots flew only 50-60 hours a year in the early years, which has increased to more than 100 hours now. In other words, it takes nearly 10 years to become an experienced pilot that has flown 1,000 hours. It takes 300,000 yuan for our third-generation warplane to fly an hour, and a pilot that has flown 1,000 hours is worth more than 300 million, more expensive than the third-generation warplane itself.
China's national defense budget in 2015 was 872 billion yuan, which was equivalent to US$141 billion, while America's national defense budget in 2015 was US$585 billion, four times as much as China's.
At the moment, the U.S. is squeezing China's surrounding strategic environment based on its powerful military forces in order to pave the way for its so-called "Return to Asia", which has seriously undermined China's national security.
Even if China's national defense budget in 2016 is appropriately increased, the increment is limited and can be supported by our national economy. It is foreseeable that China's national defense budget will keep increasing in the next decade because a nation's security and dignity is the premise and assurance for its peaceful rise.
(Lt. Gen. Wang Hongguang, former deputy commander of the previous PLA Nanjing Military Area Command)