Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) yesterday urged the government to increase the national defense budget and increase conscription in response to China’s record-high military spending and aggression.
China announced that it is to hike its official military budget 8.1 percent to 1.1 trillion yuan (US$174 billion) this year, about 16 times Taiwan’s defense budget of NT$327.8 billion (US$11.19 billion), aggravating the already heavily tilted cross-strait military balance, the TSU told a news conference in Taipei.
With its military spending jumping from 808.2 billion yuan in 2014 to 1.1 trillion this year, China has become the second-largest country in terms of military spending, losing only to the US, former TSU legislator Lai Chen-chang (賴振昌) said.
However, according the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China’s real defense budget is much more than the official figures, Lai said.
“As the No. 1 target of China’s military aggression, Taiwan cannot afford to take the matter lightly,” Lai said.
While China’s military spending has increased, Taiwan’s military expenditure in relation to its economy has decreased from about 3 percent of GDP in 2009 to 1.8 percent this year, former TSU legislator Chou Ni-an (周倪安) said.
“That, coupled with the all-volunteer military system that fails to recruit enough military personnel, suggests a rapid weakening of Taiwan’s defense,” she said.
Forty-six percent of the defense budget is spent on salaries, Chou said, asking the government to increase the budget for training, as well as weapons development and acquisition.
China has conducted large-scale, long-distance military exercises over the past two years to test its ability to break through the “first island chain” and reach the “second island chain,” with Chinese navy vessels repeatedly circling Taiwan’s airspace and waters, Chou said.
The increase in China’s military spending has spurred other countries to do the same, including the US, Japan, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, TSU Policy Department director Chen Chia-lin (陳嘉霖) said.
India increased its military spending from US$50 billion in 2014 to US$55.9 billion last year, replacing Russia as the third-largest country in terms of military expenditure, Chen said.
“Catalonia has completed an independence referendum, but has failed to attain independence because it has no military capabilities or international support,” Lai said. “Building a powerful military is the hard way to make Taiwan an independent country.”
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