Mil­i­tary bud­get hoo-ha tem­pest in a teacup

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

China will raise its de­fense bud­get by around 10 per­cent this year, com­pared with last year’s 12.2 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to spokes­woman Fu Ying at the press con­fer­ence for the an­nual ses­sion of the coun­try’s top leg­is­la­ture onWed­nes­day. The ex­act fig­ure will be pub­lished in a bud­get re­port on Thurs­day, but the mil­i­tary bud­get is cal­cu­lated to be about 889 bil­lion yuan ($142 bil­lion).

No won­der this mil­i­tary bud­get for this year has not un­ex­pect­edly been por­trayed as ev­i­dence of the “China threat”. When­ever it is an­nounced, the size, growth rate com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year, as well as its trans­parency are al­ways held up as proof that China is “ag­gres­sively build­ing up its mil­i­tary mus­cle”.

Com­pared with pre­vi­ous years, this year’s mil­i­tary bud­get has at­tracted spe­cial at­ten­tion be­cause of the hunt for “tigers”, high-rank­ing cor­rupt el­e­ments, and “flies”, lower-rank­ing ones, within the mil­i­tary. A big “tiger”, Xu Cai­hou, the for­mer deputy chief of the Cen­tralMil­i­tary Com­mis­sion, was net­ted at the end of last year, and it was an­nounced in Jan­uary that an­other 16 se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cers were un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. This was fol­lowed on Mon­day by the an­nounce­ment that a fur­ther 14 se­nior of­fi­cers are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, in­clud­ing Guo Zheng­gang, the for­mer deputy po­lit­i­cal com­mis­sar of the mil­i­tary com­mand of Zhe­jiang prov­ince, who was pro­moted to ma­jor gen­eral in Jan­uary.

Cor­rup­tion has not only eroded many mil­i­tary of­fi­cers’ will, it has also weak­ened the fight­ing ca­pa­bil­ity of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, and even abused the spend­ing on mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion – the case of Xu Cai­hou, who was re­vealed to have stored over a ton of ban­knotes in a bul­let-proof room, is a big les­son that the Chi­nese mil­i­tary should bear in mind. Only with a pow­er­ful an­ti­cor­rup­tion cam­paign can China’s mil­i­tary spend­ing serve its pur­pose.

But as well as hunt­ing the tigers and flies hid­den in var­i­ous ranks of the mil­i­tary, the mil­i­tary bud­get also needs to be more strictly su­per­vised by the mil­i­tary au­dit­ing au­thor­i­ties. It’s true that some of the spend­ing is hard to re­veal be­cause of mil­i­tary se­crets, but that spend­ing should be made as trans­par­ent as pos­si­ble within the mil­i­tary. Non-sen­si­tive spend­ing should be made public as the mil­i­tary bud­get comes from tax­pay­ers and they have the right to know ev­ery cent is be­ing used to bet­ter de­fend them.

Mean­while, someWestern me­dia out­lets have once again sen­sa­tion­al­ized China’s mil­i­tary spend­ing as a threat, by fo­cus­ing on its dou­ble-digit growth.

But such spec­u­la­tion is ab­surd. The size and growth rate of a coun­try’s mil­i­tary bud­get, are only two of the main in­dexes for judg­ing whether its mil­i­tary spend­ing is rea­son­able, with two oth­ers be­ing the mil­i­tary bud­get per capita and the per­cent­age of GDP spent on the mil­i­tary.

If China’s mil­i­tary bud­get is about $142 bil­lion this year, it is still about $61,800 per capita, and the US de­fense bud­get for Fis­cal Year of 2015 is about $600 bil­lion for its 1.44 mil­lion mil­i­tary per­son­nel, or $416,666 per capita; Ja­pan spent 4.98 tril­lion yen ($41.5 bil­lion) for the 247,000 per­son­nel in its self-de­fense forces, or $168,016 per capita. So China’s per capita spend­ing on its armed forces is much smaller than that of the US or Ja­pan.

As to the sec­ond in­dex, ac­cord­ing to data from the Stock­holm Peace Re­search Cen­ter, China’s mil­i­tary bud­get ac­counts for 1.5 per­cent of GDP, while the world av­er­age is about 2.6 per­cent and that of US is 4.3 per­cent; even that of Ja­pan has reached 1 per­cent, the up­per limit set by its peace­ful Con­sti­tu­tion.

In fact, to nar­row the mil­i­tary gap with­Western de­vel­oped pow­ers and bet­ter de­fend its grow­ing in­ter­ests glob­ally, China needs to raise its mil­i­tary bud­get an­nu­ally; and the growth rate should be greater than that of theWest or the gaps will widen.

It has been pre­dicted that China’s GDP could reach $21 tril­lion in 2019, sur­pass­ing the $20 tril­lion of US. If their mil­i­tary bud­get per­cent­ages re­main at cur­rent level, China’s mil­i­tary bud­get would still be less than half that of US. There is re­ally no need to worry about China hav­ing mil­i­tary su­pe­ri­or­ity. The au­thor is a re­tired ma­jor gen­eral and se­nior ad­vi­sor to the China Arms Con­trol and Dis­ar­ma­ment As­so­ci­a­tion.

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