How China Justifies Large Defence Budget for 2019?
As is the normal practice each year the Chinese Government Work Report released at the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) China announced the defense budget for 2019. At 1.1899 trillion yuan ($177.5 billion) the budget saw a 7.5 percent increase from 2018 but lower than the 8.1 percent increase from the previous year as per the China Military Online.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in the government work report at the opening meeting of the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing said China will continue to advance military reform and technological innovation, and push ahead with military training to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development. Thus indicating that the military spending was necessary based on security requirements of the country as well as for modernisation and reforms.
China Military Online stated that military expenditure in 2018 was mainly meant for the development of weaponry and equipment, the improvement of training conditions, military reform, and troop salaries and benefits
Somewhat embarrassed by the constant queries on China’s large defense spending second only to the United States, state controlled media outlets in China such as the Xinhua, Global Times and the PLA English website China Military Online carried a number of articles justifying the large budget
A summary of the arguments presented are as given below
Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the second session of the 13th NPC, answered a question on China’s defense spending raised by a reporter from the Bloomberg during a press conference held on the morning of March 4 before the “Two Sessions” stated that China maintains a reasonable and appropriate growth rate in its defense expenditure to safeguard national security and adapt to military reform with Chinese characteristics.
Normal Process of Modernisation
Xu Guangyu, a senior consultant at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times on the same day that modernization of the Chinese military remains at a normal and stable speed instead of a premature rush as is speculated by some.
Growth Lower than 2018
The shift in China’s defense budget growth from double-digit to single-digit came in 2016. However this year the growth has been lowered to approximately 7 percent plus which is also the same at which India is allocating resources for defence.
Military Expenditure Lower than World average for GDP
Compared to the 2019 growth target of GDP, which is between 6 and 6.5 percent according to the Government Work Report, the growth rate of military funding is a little faster.
The military expenditure of 2018, 1.107 trillion yuan as released by the Government Work Report, only accounts for about 1.3 percent of China’s GDP, a figure significantly lower than the world average of 2.6 percent and major military powers like the US and Russia, which have a defense expenditure/GDP ratio of 4 percent on average in recent years, according to data gathered by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily says China Military Online.
Public Demand for Higher Defense Expenditure
Meanwhile Global Times – Chinese government online platform for discussion of geopolitics states that the public wants a higher growth rate to achieve the targets that have been set by the Belt and Road Initiative or the internationalization of the yuan
China is one of the countries with the largest number of neighbors and the longest land border in the world. Due to historical reasons, China and some of its neighboring countries still have disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. In reality, “Taiwan independence,” “East Turkistan independence”, and “Tibetan independence”, along with other separatist plots have not died down.
Deployment for UN Peacekeeping
During the 40 years of reform and opening up, the number of Chinese troops was reduced from 6.03 million in 1980 to 2 million in 2018, a decrease of 4.03 million. In stark contrast, since the first batch of military observers was dispatched to the UN peacekeeping operations in 1990, China had sent nearly 40,000 peacekeepers till 2018. This number made China rank first among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Anti Piracy Missions
Since the end of 2008, the Chinese Navy has sent more than 30 batches of fleets to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia for escort missions. Half of the ships under Chinese Navy escort are foreign vessels.
In addition, the Chinese military has also actively participated in international emergency humanitarian aid mission. China has sent medical teams to West Africa to fight Ebola, launched comprehensive search and rescue for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, and evacuated trapped personnel in Yemen.