The latest double-digit increase to China’s defense budget serves world peace and is no threat to anyone, state media argued yesterday after the 12.2 percent spending hike raised alarms in Japan.
“China has no intention of overturning the current international security pattern,” the Global Times said. “China will never seek to grab hegemony.”
The government-run China Daily said in its editorial: “World peace needs a militarily stronger China,” adding that narratives which put China in a “bully’s role” were “completely against the truth.”
On Wednesday, the opening day of the National People’s Congress meeting, Beijing announced a rise in the People’s Liberation Army budget for this year to 808.23 billion yuan (US$132 billion).
Beijing’s growing military expenditures and capabilities have raised worries in Asia and the US.
Japan’s Asahi Shimbun yesterday said that Beijing’s defense spending was “triple” that of Tokyo.
“China’s military expansion is not stopping,” the newspaper said in an editorial. “What is the purpose of this accelerating military expansion? It’s no surprise that the international community has strong concerns.”
The conservative mass circulation Yomiuri Shimbun warned that “the rapid military buildup under [Chinese President] Xi Jinping (習近平) will amplify the ‘China threat’ theory.”
The Chinese defense spending figure is still far short of the US$633 billion approved for this year by the US, but analysts believe China’s actual defense spending is significantly higher than publicized.
“China will not stop increasing its military spending,” the Global Times said. “It is believed the best scale for it in the long run is keeping it at half or two-thirds of that of the US.”
It added that China’s military spending should exceed Japan’s “to a large extent.”
“We should have an absolute advantage over Japan in terms of naval and air forces and strategic striking capabilities, as Japan has shielding from its military alliance with the US,” the paper said. “China’s annual military spending has exceeded Russia, but has China acquired greater military strength than Russia? Obviously no.”
This year’s official rise is the largest since 2011. The China Daily said Beijing was “only making up for what it has neglected to do in the past.”
“The current increase is both imperative and legitimate, because China now has broader interests to defend,” it wrote. “At the same time, more security threats are sprouting up in its immediate neighborhood.”
Xinhua news agency dismissed international concerns in a bylined commentary, arguing that “it is Washington and Tokyo, instead of Beijing, that should explain to the world their military postures and intentions.”