China's Defense Budget to Grow 11.2 Percent In 2012
China said Sunday it plans to raise its defense budget by 11.2 percent to 670 billion yuan (106.4 billion U.S. dollars) in 2012.
This year's draft defense budget is 67.6 billion yuan more than the defense expenditure of 2011, said Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the annual session of China's national legislature.
China is planning a double-digit rise in military spending this year, an increase authorities say is in line with the country's economic development and defense needs.
Li Zhaoxing, the spokesman for the National People's Congress, announced on Sunday the overall figure for China's 2012 military spending. Li says the defense budget will be about $110 billion (670.2 billion RMB), which represents an 11.2 percent increase over what was spent last year.
This compares to a 12.7 percent increase in military spending last year and is in line with a nearly unbroken string of double-digit increases over the past two decades.
The spokesman says China has the world's largest population, a big territory and a long coastline, but only spends 1.28 percent of its gross domestic product on defense spending. By comparison, he points to other developed countries like the United States and Britain, which spend more than 2 percent of their national budgets on defense.
Li says China is committed to a path of peaceful development and pursues a defense policy that is defensive in nature.
Many analysts say the budget that Beijing announces publicly understates real spending on rapid military modernization.
Arthur Ding, an international relations professor at Taiwan's National Chengchi University, says he believes some of the money will go to raising salaries.
Ding says, “So, I guess the military personnel, the salaries, will take a major portion of the increase and also they are recruiting, they are somewhat switching to voluntary force gradually, I would say, and (to maintain a) voluntary force would take tremendous budget, tremendous money to recruit sufficient manpower.”
At the same time, he expects some of the money will go to improving military hardware.
“I would say the satellite, or development of satellite, will be continued, and the new fighter jet development and so forth. I think probably the priority would be the anti-access capability for developing the anti-access mission,” says Ding.
An anti-access strategy would be aimed at interfering with the ability of other militaries to operate in nearby military theaters.
This defense budget is China's first since President Barack Obama launched an initiative to reinforce U.S. influence in the Asia-Pacific region and reassure allies that Washington will remain a key player there.
The Chinese spokesman's comments came one day before the opening of the annual legislative session of the National People's Congress, which starts Monday.
"The Chinese government follows the principle of coordinating defense development with economic development. It sets the country's defense spending according to the requirements of national defense and the level of economic development," Li told a press conference.
The former foreign minister said the growth of China's defense expenditure is "reasonable and appropriate."
"The Chinese government has maintained reasonable and appropriate growth in defense spending on the strength of rapid economic and social development and the steady increase of fiscal revenues," he said.
During the last three years since the outbreak of the international financial crisis, China's gross domestic product (GDP) and national fiscal expenditure showed year-on-year growth of 14.5 percent and 20.3 percent, respectively, but the country's defense expenditure only grew by 13 percent, according to Li.
He also noted that the share of defense spending in China's GDP dropped from 1.33 percent in 2008 to 1.28 percent in 2011, and that in China's fiscal expenditure dropped from 6.68 percent in 2008 to 5.53 percent in 2011.
China's national defense spending has always been maintained at a moderate and sufficient level, said Major General Luo Yuan, a researcher with the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Military Science Academy.
"Moderate" means China will not raise its military spending merely for the purpose of boosting scale, while "sufficient" means the spending has to meet necessary demand for national defense, said Luo.
Wen Bing, another researcher with the academy, said the moderate growth of China's defense budget reflects the composure of the Chinese government under the changing global strategic environment.
"In terms of defense spending, the Chinese government will not, as some foreign analysts suggest, make a drastic response to, or overreact to, the so-called 'worsening of global security'," Wen said.
China's military spending mainly comprises the living expenditures of servicepeople, expenses for training and maintenance, and spending on equipment, Li said at the press conference.
The costs for research, experimentation, procurement, repair, transport and storage of all weapons and equipment, including new types of weapons, are included in the defense budget that is published every year, the spokesman said.
"China is committed to the path of peaceful development and follows a national defense policy that is defensive in nature," Li said.
Compared to other major countries, China's military spending is low given its population of 1.3 billion, vast land area and long coastlines, Li said.
China's military spending is dwarfed by that of the United States, at 725 billion U.S. dollars, and its per capita figure is also far less than that of the U.S., Luo said.
While China's military spending amounted to 1.28 percent of its GDP in 2011, that of the United States, Britain and other countries all exceed 2 percent, said Li.
"The limited military strength of China is solely for safeguarding its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and will not pose a threat to any country," said Li.
A report by INS Jane, a European think tank, said China's military expenditures will increase from 119.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2011 to 238.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2015.
"I don't know where the report cited those figures," Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said at a regular press briefing in February, adding that China always stands for coordinated development between national defense and the economy.
China will not develop its military strength beyond national security demands and economic capability, and will not conduct an arms race with any country, Geng said.
Li said China is transparent not only with its defense figures, but also about the fact that everything China's defense and diplomatic personnel does is to maintain peace.
"We have made tremendous efforts together with all peace-loving countries and peoples of the world," he said.
By June last year, China had sent a total of 2,044 peace-keeping personnel to 12 peace-keeping zones around the world, and the Chinese navy has sent escort vessels to the Gulf of Aden and waters off the coast of Somalia to protect thousands of commercial vessels from China and other countries, according to Li.
Source: 02 March 2012 - People’s Daily News & Voice of America
Photo: China Air Force J-20 Mighty Dragon 5th generation fighter jet photographed with J-10AS dual seat fighter jet trainer variant of the J-10A Vanguard (Photo by chinesemilitaryreview.blogspot.com)