BEIJING, March 4 — China announced its biggest increase in defense spending in five years on Sunday, a development that quickly prompted the United States to renew its calls for more transparency from the Chinese military about the scope and intent of its continuing, rapid arms buildup.
Jiang Enzhu, a spokesman for the National People’s Congress, the Communist Party-controlled national legislature, said China’s military budget would rise this year by 17.8 percent to roughly 350 billion yuan, or just under $45 billion.
“We must increase our military budget, as it is important to national security,” Mr. Jiang said at a news conference. “China’s military must modernize. Our overall defenses are weak.”
Even assuming that the Chinese are understating their military expenditures, does anyone doubt that their expenditures are a fraction of our $430 billion military budget?
China has little ability to project power beyond its borders; its forces are mostly for internal security; China is not expansionist (at least not in the sense of military conquest); and we have no intention (or ability for that matter) to invade China.
I know that their are officers in the Pentagon who, searching for a “near-peer high-tech enemy” in the conflict they’ve built their careers in planning for, see China as the most likely prospect for such a role. And I don’t even doubt that there are Chinese officers who’d like to see China playing that role. I think that such notions are far-fetched on both sides of the Pacific.
China has become a middle-class nation by World Bank standards and it’s an enormous one. If China is to shoulder the responsibilities in its region of its new status, it must modernize its military and expand its capacity. The alternatives are that no one takes on that responsibility or that we do and, as I look around me, I see little willingness on the part of my countrymen to double or treble our own military expenditures. We’ve increased the size of our military little since 9/11; if that doesn’t spur an expansion how will prospective troubles in the Far East?
There’s an excellent post from The Arms Control Otaku on why China’s nuclear arsenal isn’t a threat, either.