Tue, Mar 06, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Chinese defense budget to rise 8.1%


Delegates attend the opening of the 13th Chinese National People’s Congress in Beijing yesterday.

Photo: EPA

China’s defense budget is to rise 8.1 percent to 1.1 trillion yuan (US$175.1 billion) this year as the nation prepares to launch its second aircraft carrier, integrate stealth fighters into its air force and field an array of advanced missiles able to attack air and sea targets at vast distances.

The figure released in a report yesterday to the 13th National People’s Congress is an increase in the growth rate from last year, when officials said the budget was rising 7 percent to 1 trillion yuan.

“We will stick to the Chinese path in strengthening our armed forces, advance all aspects of military training and war preparedness,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) said.

China has the world’s largest military by number of personnel, but Li said the nation had “basically completed” the target of reducing the size of the armed forces by 300,000 troops. That would leave the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s strength at about 2 million troops.

However, China’s defense spending as a share of GDP and the budget remains lower than that of other major nations, congress spokesman Zhang Yesui (張業遂) said on Sunday.

This year’s defense budget comes to about 1.3 percent of last year’s GDP.

Analysts do not consider China’s publicly announced defense spending to be entirely accurate, since defense equipment projects account for a significant amount of “off-book” expenditures.

Noting that this year’s increase was roughly the same as last year’s when adjusted for inflation, Shanghai military expert Ni Lexiong (倪樂雄) said that China is seeking to avoid a full-on arms race based on quantity of weapons, choosing instead to invest in high-tech systems and training.

China’s defense budget is so large that double-digit annual percentage increases are no longer necessary, military commentator Song Zhongping said.

New funds are going mainly to raise living standards for service members, increase training and prepare for potential crises on the Korean Peninsula, the border with India or in the South China Sea or Taiwan Strait, Song said.

Much of China’s energies have been focused on what is known as anti-access/area denial operations, which seek to scare the US Navy and other forces far from China’s shores.

All three of China’s sea forces — the navy, coast guard and maritime militia — are the largest of their types by number of ships, allowing them to “maintain presence and influence in vital seas,” said Andrew Erickson of the US Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute.

All three fleets are growing “leaner and meaner” due to a greater emphasis on technical sophistication, Erickson wrote, adding that the US also anticipates facing a Chinese submarine fleet twice its number, although less technologically advanced.

In the air, China last month said it had begun equipping combat units with its J-20 stealth fighters.

No less impressive is its missile technology, particularly the DF-21D, which is built to take out an aircraft carrier, and a new air-to-air missile with a range of about 400km that could attack assets such as early warning aircraft and refueling tankers crucial to US Air Force operations.

Meanwhile, Li said that China would never tolerate any separatist schemes for Taiwan and would safeguard its territorial integrity with the aim of “reunification.”

Li issued the warning in his speech at the congress’ opening amid mounting Chinese anger over a US bill that seeks to raise official contacts between Washington and Taipei.

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