BEIJING, March 6 (ChinaMil) -- "China raises 2018 military budget by 8.1 percent": some international media began to stir the "China threat" again as China released its annual national defense budget on Mar 5. Several Chinese experts interviewed by our reporters all said that as a major power it is only reasonable for China to increase its military budget to the second in the world.
China's defense spending ratio is not high
China's defense spending is the hottest topic in the opening sessions of the "two sessions" each year. This year's 8.1 percent growth rate is characterized as having a “smooth” nature as this is the third consecutive year that the growth has been in single digits. It is only slightly higher than that of 2017. The British media "Financial Times" reported that the ratio of China's defense spending to its GDP has been a fairly stable 1.3 percent over the years.
The figure is lower than that of the US, Russia, and India. The US defense budget for fiscal year 2018 accounted for 3.4 percent of its GDP, the highest since 2012. India’s defense budget for fiscal year 2018 increased by 7.81 percent compared with that of 2017 and accounted for 1.58 percent of its GDP. Russia’s defense budget for 2018 will be reduced by about 5.0 percent but it still accounted for 2.8 percent of its GDP. At the same time, the total national defense budget of Japan and South Korea in 2018 also reached record highs.
China's National People's Congress (NPC) Spokesman Zhang Yesui said that China’s national defense investment level is lower than the world’s major countries in terms of the ratio of national defense budget to GDP, national fiscal expenditure, or on a per capita basis.
China has always adhered to the path of peaceful development and pursued a defensive national defense policy. China’s development will not pose a threat to any country, Zhang said.
An observer who wished to be anonymous told our reporter on Mar. 5 that US President Trump substantially increased his military budget just as Russian President Putin released his latest list of weapons. The world seems to be caught in a new arms race among big countries. Under such circumstances, China’s defense spending has continued to grow steadily, with the same increase as that of last year.
The observer believes that the steady growth indicates that the Chinese military continues to strengthen its own construction and improve its capability to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and security.
More importantly, China did not join the arms race. This shows that China continues to pursue a defensive national defense policy. It also shows that China has a lot of confidence in its own national defense construction, and it is free from external interference and influence, the observer said.
China does not have invisible military spending
American media CNN acknowledges that the US’s defense budget is much higher than China’s. However, it continued to use Western media’s customary tone in a recent report and questioned “China’s invisible military spending”, saying that “although China's defense spending is less than other major countries, the figures released do not include numerous military-related costs typically included in the budgets of other nations."
A military source said on Mar. 5 that the question of China’s invisible military spending is an old problem. However, all countries have complex military expenditure, especially for military and civilian integration projects.
For example, it is difficult to separate civilian or military projects in the US space programs. This source said: "As a big country, it is very reasonable that China's military budget ranks second in the world."
Major General Chen Zhou, a researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences who has participated in the drafting of several China's defense white papers, emphasized in an interview that China’s defense costs are objective and transparent and there is no “hidden military expenditure”.
He said that since 2007, China has participated in the UN Transparency in Armaments and submitted to the UN basic data of military expenditure in the previous fiscal year. China also resumed the provision of data regarding import and export of seven categories of conventional weapons to the UN Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA).
Purpose of newly increased military spending
Spokesman Zhang Yesui said that in recent years, China has appropriately increased its investment in national defense, a considerable part of which was used to make up for the deficiencies of the past. Weapons and equipment were updated and living conditions of military personnel were improved, as were training and living conditions for grass-roots units.
There is a slight difference between this statement and that of 2017. On Mar. 6, 2017, the Ministry of Finance said that the increase in defense spending for the 2017 budget was mainly used to support the deepening of national defense and military reforms, promote the development of civil-military integration, and improve the work, training and living conditions of grass-roots units.
This subtle difference in wording shows that the emphasis on the use of China's military spending in 2017 and 2018 varies from "supporting the deepening of national defense and military reform" to "updating weapons and equipment."
Premier Li Keqiang stated in the government work report of Mar. 5 that “in the past five years, all parties worked together and basically accomplished the task of reducing the number of military personnel by 300,000. The modernization level of military equipment has been significantly improved.”
China announced in September 2015 that it would reduce the number of its military personnel by 300,000 by the end of 2017. It is reasonable to conclude that defense spending was used to deepen the national defense and military reform during this period.
The improvement of combat effectiveness is inseparable from the development of equipment. A military expert who requested anonymity said on Mar. 5 that “the current form of war is not the same as it was decades ago. Weapons, equipment, capabilities, and requirements are all different. Informatized weapons and equipment all require money. During the World War II, one fighter jet was only hundreds of thousands of dollars while at present, each US fighter jet is over 10 million dollars."
CNN cited achievements made by China in recent years including the construction of the domestic aircraft carrier, the commissioning of the J-20 stealth fighter jet, the imminent commissioning of the DF-41 intercontinental missile, and the launch of the Djibouti base. The report also notes actual combat training and concludes that with increases in domestic support and China’s international influence, China’s potential threat to peace will also increase.
CNN also reported that Chinese leaders may feel enabled to use military power to conduct excessive actions or trigger a crisis among neighboring countries.
The above-mentioned anonymous military sources stated that "CNN's evaluation is very unprofessional." The military of any country must continuously improve the level of training and actual combat, and upgrade its equipment. The US, as the world’s most powerful military power, has a very fast equipment update rate and a very high actual combat level.
The military sources concluded that “From a professional point of view, it is right to develop equipment and raise the level of actual combat because military construction should be done in this way. China is a big country with a lot of people, and it is only reasonable to increase security measures.”
The author is Guo Yuandan, reporter with the Global Times.