China Boosts Military Budget: Is next World War fast approaching?
-Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
In recent times, all world powers have built up arms arsenals, including nukes as if they all expect another world war any time soon. Ukraine crisis tries to push the world powers towards a war, if possible but the there has been a world war tendency even otherwise. USA, Russia and china top the list of nations that keep spending more resources on military purposes.
China, the largest purchaser of Russian weapons and technology, keeps adding money on military purchases. China’s defense spending will increase by 10 percent this year, the latest double-digit increase for the world’s largest standing military. China has been rapidly expanding its defense spending, with last year’s figure $132 billion marking a 12 percent increase on the year before. The figure announced very recently by National People’s Congress spokeswoman Fu Ying means China’s officially declared military budget would amount to about $145 billion in 2015.
China’s 2014 defense budget of $132 billion was only about one-quarter of US government spending on defense this year ($496 billion). Its 2014 the Chinese military budget was set at 12.2 percent over previous years. Stepping up purchases is a priority, but so is developing indigenous systems, particularly for theater-specific weapons known as “access-denial.” China’s military spending exceeded $145 billion last year as it advanced a program modernizing an arsenal of drones, warships, jets, missiles and cyber weapons, the Pentagon said on Thursday, offering a far higher figure than Beijing’s official tally.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is the world’s largest. With an estimated 2.2 million personnel, China’s military doesn’t want for manpower. Its boost for military expenditure seems to be in line with China’s economy which grew 7.4% last year, roughly in line with the government’s growth target of around 7.5% and robust by global standards, but still the slowest in 24 years. China announced an economic growth target for this year of around 7%, signaling its lowest rate of expansion for a quarter of a century, and said it would increase government spending to support the slowing economy. Speaking at the opening of China’s annual parliamentary meeting, Premier Li Keqiang vowed to fight corruption and pollution, and stressed the need for more painful reforms to put the world’s second-largest economy on a more sustainable footing after three decades of breakneck growth. Beijing plans to lift government spending to 17.15 trillion yuan ($2.74 trillion) in 2015, an increase of 10.6 percent on 2014.
Washington and its allies accuse China of using its rising military strength to bully neighbors in the East and South China Seas with which Beijing has territorial disputes. Many analysts have long suspected China spends much more on defense than it officially declares, both because of a lack of transparency and other factors such as corruption. Many of China’s neighbors remain unconvinced, and have also ramped up spending. Japan this year increased its military budget by 2.8 percent to a record $42 billion. India’s defense budget rose by 11 percent to $40 billion.
The idea is to build an arsenal that can keep unwanted intruders (like the United States) out of places China doesn’t want it to be (think the Taiwan Strait). Russian-built S-300 anti-aircraft defense systems or Kh-35 anti-ship missiles fit that bill nicely. Submarines as well as aircraft carriers fit that bill, too. China wants to raise the cost of US/NATO intervention virtually anywhere. That’s useful for the Chinese, that’s useful for a number of other clients. This puts an emphasis on anti-air and anti-ship technologies, key for Russian arms sales.
Beijing has said it is only trying to upgrade equipment and expand defensive capabilities for its military, which has 2.3 million members. Compared with other powers, China has been taking a tougher road in its military modernization because “we have to depend on ourselves for the research and development of most of our military equipment and a lot have to be started from the very basic level,” Chinese leader Fu said. China’s defense policy is defensive in nature. “This is clearly defined in the constitution. We will not easily change this direction and principle.” The increase would actually represent a drop from last year, when military spending increased by 12.2 percent. But it would be the fifth straight year that the defense budget has increased by double digits.
America’s Asia pivot policy targeting China and its efforts to contain Beijing in entire Asia, especially in Asia-pacific region simply does not allow China to reduce military budget but only increase the defense spending. China both procures arms from Russia and manufactures its own weapons. The USA is a global military power. China is the first major world power in history to fall short of being a global military power. China’s military power is pretty much restricted to its own borders and shores. Americans complain that Russia and China are plotting against USA by raising the NATO imperialist tendencies.
The United States last month charged five Chinese military officers and accused them of hacking into American nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets, ratcheting up tensions between the two world powers over cyber espionage. The Pentagon report renewed warnings over cyber intrusions.
Americans are annoyed with China in political sphere as well. The Chinese government’s image took a huge hit in the eyes of Americans after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre (of student protesters by Chinese troops), and it has not really recovered since. American attitudes also have been influenced more recently by Beijing’s refusal to release jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo. The human rights advocate won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, but remained imprisoned by China’s Communist rulers for perceived subversive activities. The problem is the US media coverage of China tends to emphasize conflictual elements in US-China relations. There are disagreements between the US and Chinese governments in how to resolve international conflicts and economic disputes about cyber security and intellectual property rights.
Americans say Russia and China are trying to close the technology gap with the U.S. military by developing weapons systems that appear designed to counter traditional U.S. advantages. Many Americans, especially in media, expect China to pose an economic and military threat to the United States in the future, with more Americans worried about the perceived economic threat than the military one. Americans, by and large, are uncomfortable with authoritarianism.
China’s shortcomings are is in sophisticated technologies that would make another military superpower think twice about intervening in places that Beijing considers its core strategic interest. Though China has steadily increased its defense spending, Beijing still only spends a fraction on its military compared to the United States. Washington has proposed spending about $600 billion on defense and overseas conflicts this year.
It acknowledged that estimating Chinese spending can be difficult, in part because of poor accounting transparency and incomplete transition from a command economy. The Pentagon’s estimate, however, using 2013 prices and exchange rates, was 21 percent above the $119.5 billion figure announced by China. It was detailed in an annual report to Congress that cited steady progress in Chinese defense capabilities. The report came just days after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, using unusually strong language, accused Beijing of destabilizing the region in pursuit of territorial claims.
China is placing emphasis on preparing for potential contingencies in the South and East China Seas, noting an October drill named Maneuver 5 in the Philippine Sea. The drill, the Pentagon said, was the largest Chinese Navy open-ocean exercise seen to date. China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea and dismisses competing claims from Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. Japan also has a territorial dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea.
China has unveiled details of four drones under development in 2013, including the Lijian, China’s first stealth drone. In September 2013, a “probable” Chinese drone was noted for the first time conducting reconnaissance over the East China Sea. A report said that China is using its capability to support intelligence collection against the US diplomatic, economic, and defense industrial base sectors that support US national defense program. The Pentagon cited advances in Chinese drone technology and said China might to match or even outpace US spending on unmanned systems in the future.
Russia’s own military spending is on the upswing: up 92 percent in nominal terms since 2010, according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. Russia’s weapons makers – think Sukhoi, MiG, Zvezda, Almaz-Antey – are happy to benefit from this largesse, but the Defense Ministry isn’t their only client. State-run arms dealer Rosoboronexport has been expanding its customer base for years, trying to gain market share from the world’s largest arms dealer, the United States.
Russia’s abstention from a UN Security Council resolution vote in March that condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea was unusual, given Beijing’s traditional stance on such votes, but it comes as bilateral ties have been on the upswing for years now.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that since 2009, half of all Russian arms sales went to India and China. Moscow has sold diesel attack submarines to Vietnam and Sukoi fighter jets and Mil helicopters to India in past years.
Obviously, China’s steady military buildups and higher military budget make Japan more alert. India, now playing US nurse, rather willingly for somehow obtaining a veto position on the discredited UNSC, should also be worried about Chinese big budget on military spending.
China’s military investments provide it with a growing ability to project power at increasingly longer ranges.