Fri, Mar 10, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Neighborly concerns

By Ma Hsiao-ling

China's annual National People's Congress has opened its 10-day session in Beijing. The government announced on Saturday that its military budget this year will rise 14.7 percent to US$35.3 billion. Total spending on the 2.5 million-member People's Liberation Army is believed to be as much as several times the reported figure.

China's defense spending is by no means transparent. Its armed forces are the biggest in the world and have seen double-digit increases in military spending since the early 1990s.

Most analysts estimate China's real spending on defense is at least three times as great as the publicly disclosed figure. Washington has several times accused China of understating its military budget. Its actual military spending, including the large but difficult-to-assess off-budget financing portion, could total US$65 billion, making China the second largest defense spender in the world after the US and the largest defense spender in Asia.

The release of China's White Paper on national defense may be an attempt by Beijing to appear to be increasing its military transparency to the West, while in reality keeping much secret.

Most drivers buy a steering lock to protect their vehicle, despite the fact that this alone will not prevent a talented thief from stealing it. Similarly, we all understand that it's difficult for us to confront a strong enemy like China.

However, with adequate arms, we can consolidate our defensive capability and at least show our determination to protect Taiwan.

Ma Hsiao-ling


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