Wed, Mar 06, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Beijing hikes internal, external security spending as it vows to mend social ills

Reuters and AFP, BEIJING

Spending on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will rise 10.7 percent to 740.6 billion yuan (US$119 billion), while the domestic security budget will go up at a slightly slower pace, 8.7 percent, to 769.1 billion yuan, the budget showed.

The numbers underscore the party’s vigilance not only about territorial disputes with Taiwan, Japan and other Asian countries, and the US’ “pivot” back to the region, but also about popular unrest.

The number of “mass incidents” of unrest recorded by the Chinese government grew from 8,700 in 1993 to about 90,000 in 2010, several government-backed studies show. Some estimates are higher, and the government has not released official data for recent years.

“It shows the party is mor concerned about the potential risks of destabilization coming from inside the country than outside, which tells us the party is much less confident,” Human Rights Watch researcher Nicholas Bequelin said. “A confident government that is not afraid of its population doesn’t need to have a budget for domestic security that is over defense spending.”

Still, China’s defense spending is contained at about 5.4 percent of total expenditure, up from 5.3 percent last year, and stayed at about one-fifth of the Pentagon’s outlays. However, even with its worries about domestic problems, Beijing has become more assertive.

Wen said the government “should accelerate the modernization of national defense and the armed forces ... [and] should resolutely uphold China’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity and ensure its peaceful development.”

China has repeatedly said the world has nothing to fear from its military spending, which is needed for legitimate defensive purposes, and that the money spent on the PLA pales in comparison with US’ defense expenditure.

The Pentagon’s base budget is US$534 billion.

“It’s not good news for the world that a country as large as China is unable to protect itself,” parliament spokeswoman Fu Ying (傅瑩) said.

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