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Truth about military spending
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2005-07-12 13:56

By CHEN XULONG

Defense budgets are a mirror to a country's strategic intentions and its potential to threaten others. It comes as no surprise therefore that the many China watchers in the West keep a close eye on any movement in the China's defense spending. Recent remarks made by senior U.S. and Japanese officials have accused China of upping its spending in this area to alarming proportions.

But as Mao Zedong once said, "Seek truth from facts." A recent internationally accredited report on military matters, including expenditures, flies in the face of accusations leveled against China and puts the country's military spending into perspective.

World military expenditure in 2004 has, for the first time since the end of the Cold War, exceeded the benchmark of $1 trillion. The major determinant of this trend is the increased spending by the United States, which makes up 47 percent of the world total.

These and other revealing facts are detailed in the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's (SIPRI) latest research report entitled "SIPRI Yearbook 2005: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security" issued on June 7. The latest information on world military expenditure contained in this yearbook by the world-leading institute specializing in research in arms control and disarmament has captured wide attention since its release. The yearbook reports that U.S. military expenditure has increased by 12 percent year-on-year to $455.3 billion, surpassing the combined military expenditure of the following 31 biggest spenders, as well as the combined military expenditure of the entire developing world. China's $35.4 billion pales in comparison. Predictably Japan emerges as Asia's biggest military spender and the fourth largest in the world. Of particular interest is India's military expenditure, which increased by 19 percent in 2004 over the previous year, enjoying the fastest growth among South Asian countries. India has been the world's largest arms importer since 2003.

China's Position

According to SIPRI, China's 2004 military expenditure, 4 percent of the world's total and the fifth largest in the world, converts to $27 per capita, the second lowest among the 15 major spenders. By comparison, U.S. military expenditure in 2004 was 12.86 times greater and its per-capita amount 57 times of that of China.

Regionally, China's military expenditure is $7 billion less than its Asian neighbor Japan.

What emerges from the SIPRI statistics refutes accusations from countries like the United States and Japan that China is increasing spending in military hardware. Just days before the release of the report, at the Fourth Asia Security Conference held in Singapore, representatives from the United States and Japan made harsh remarks on China's "high" defense expenditure. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed, "China has the third largest military budget in the world, and clearly the largest in Asia."

As a matter of fact, China has for a long time maintained moderate defense expenditures, lower than that of some Western countries in absolute terms, as well as lower in its proportion in gross domestic product (GDP) and the government's budget. In the last two decades or so, China's military expenditure's share of GDP has floated below the benchmark of 2 percent, which is lower than the average level of 3 percent of developed countries and the average 2.6 percent of developing countries. Just as Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kong Quan once pointed out, as opposed to China's huge population, long land border and coastline, its defense expenditure has constantly maintained a relatively low level. Kong said that China's military expenses lag behind major countries in the world in absolute and per-capita terms, amount per soldier, proportion of GDP, and proportion of government expenditure.

Reasons for Increase

IN BETTER SHAPE: The Chinese Government has increased expenses for improving living conditions and training facilities of servicemen and servicewomen

Without doubt, along with China's economic development in recent years, the country's military expenditure has also maintained a trend of expansion. This trend is elaborated upon by the Chinese Government's white paper entitled "China's National Defense in 2004." In accordance with the National Defense Law, the Chinese Government follows the guiding principle of coordinated development of national defense and economy. Based on the economic development and revenue growth, it has continued to increase its defense expenditures moderately, so as to keep up with the changes in the demands of national defense. China's GDP in 2002 and 2003 was 10.5 trillion yuan ($1.3 trillion) and 11.7 trillion yuan ($1.4 trillion) respectively. Its defense expenditure in 2002 and 2003 was 170.8 billion yuan ($20.6 billion) and 190.8 billion yuan ($23 billion) respectively. Its defense budget for 2004 is 211.7 billion yuan ($25.6 billion). In the past two years, the ratios of China's annual defense expenditure to its GDP and to the state expenditure in the same period have remained basically stable.

Furthermore, China has neither intention nor capacity to dramatically increase expenses on armaments. As the increase of China's military expenditure is made possible by the country's economic growth and growing government revenue, the functions of military expenditures have decided that such an increase is necessary and justified. According to China's National Defense in 2004, the increased part of China's defense expenditures has primarily been used for the following purposes.

First, to increase the salaries and allowances of military personnel. It is necessary to raise the salaries and allowances in accordance with socio-economic development and the per-capita income rise of urban and rural residents.

Second, to further improve the social insurance system for servicemen.

Third, to support the structural and organizational reform of the military. China has once again downsized its military by 200,000, and has to increase the expenses on the resettlement of the discharged surplus personnel accordingly.

Fourth, to increase investment in the development of talented personnel. Chinese army has established and refined an incentive mechanism for talented people, improved conditions in military institutions of higher learning, and entrusted non-military colleges and universities with the education of qualified personnel, so as to implement the army's Strategic Project for Talented People.

Fifth, to moderately increase expenses on armaments. This is aimed at facilitating a leap forward in updating weaponry and equipment and stepping up preparations for military confrontations.

Ulterior Motive

It is stated in the annual report by U.S. Department of Defense submitted to the Congress in May that China's military spending had grown rapidly in recent years, reaching $70 billion in 2004, which is almost twice of SIPRI's figure of $35.4 billion. The latter, to many, is more believable than the former, considering that even experts from the RAND Corp., the leading U.S. research institute in military studies and analysis, once pointed out China's military expenses had been overstated by the Pentagon by 71 percent.

In fact, as a country of 1.3 billion people, with booming economy and a heavy defense task, China has maintained a moderate military expenditure and growth rate. What is more, China has adhered to the path of peaceful development, pursuing a national defense policy that is defensive in nature and an independent foreign policy of peace. China will never pose a threat to another peace-loving country.

Regardless, the United States and Japan have continued to make exaggerations and blunt accusations over China's military expenditures and military power, in an attempt to promote the "China threat theory." Many see this as reasoning from a particular mindset along with ulterior motives.

Although it has been a long time since the Cold War ended, the Cold War mindset continues to exert its influence from time to time in countries like the United States and Japan. Those who prescribe to this mindset are obsessed with power politics and have the need to seek absolute security by forming allies and seeking military supremacy. This line of thought translates development of other countries into a challenge to their own advantageous positions. Moreover, adopting an ideology standard and drumming up the "democratic peace theory," they take Western political systems and values as the guarantee for peace, and classify countries with political systems different from their own as those that need defending against and transformation.

There are two ulterior motives behind these overstatements of China's military spending and power.

First, they want to project China as their "imaginary rival" and use it as an excuse to maintain their own strong military power. This becomes an excuse for the United States to continue its military presence in Asia and for Japan to expand armaments in a bid to become a military power.

Second, they intend to make excuses to continue military interference in Taiwan and arms sales to Taiwan.

Third, they are trying to justify their opposition to the EU's wish to lift the arms embargo over China.

Fourth, they intend to make legislatures in both countries to ratify more military expenses, in order to stop China's military modernization and maintain their military edges over China.

Admittedly, in a modern world, the military factor influence over international structure and national security is on the rise. Meanwhile, with a quarter-century-long economic advancement and rapid development of comprehensive national strength, China is committed to promoting military modernization in conformity with world trends in this area. From this perspective, it is understandable for foreign powers to pay due attention to any expansion in China's military muscle.

In response to groundless criticism from the United States and Japan, Cui Tiankai, Chinese representative to the Asia Security Conference in Singapore retorted that as a country with military spending much larger than that of China, America's criticism is unjustified. He added that every country is entitled to its own defense focuses, and the size of China's military expenditure is appropriate. While answering questions at a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao noted it warrants no accusation for the Chinese army to update weaponry in order to tackle complicated international situations and defend its sovereignty, security and territorial integrity. He said any word and act aimed at creating and whipping up China's military threat is harmful to regional peace and stability. He also expressed the hope that the United States shall respect facts and contribute more to healthy development of Sino-U.S. relations, increase of mutual trust between countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and peace and stability in this region.

No matter how hard some countries have tried to exaggerate China's military expenses and military power, China is firmly committed to moving down the road of peaceful development.

Source:Beijing Review 
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