Beijing on Sunday announced its biggest increase in military spending in a decade, the latest hike in a 19-year trend of consecutive double-digit growth that has drawn concern from the international community, most notably the US, Japan and Taiwan.
Speaking to reporters at the Great Hall of the People, spokesman for the Communist regime Jiang Enzhu, justified the 17.8 per cent increase to $44.9 billion as being largely about increasing wages and living allowances, as well as upgrading weaponry for “defensive operations”.
“China is committed to taking the path of peaceful development and pursuing a defensive military posture,” Mr Jiang said according to the Los Angeles Times. He also stated that the Communist regime's military spending proportionate to national budget was quite low, when compared to such countries as the US, France and Germany.
However, many critics believe that, as in the Soviet Union, Communist China's stated military budget differs substantially from its real expenditure. Estimates of real expenditure range from around double the stated amount to up to four times the official figures at $US180 billion ($A232.48 billion), and it is generally agreed that the Chinese regime's military budget is now the second highest in the world, according to Defense Industry Daily.
Japan and the US were quick to question the motives behind Beijing's military expansion, with Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki saying that the Communist regime needs to “try harder” to bring more transparency into its defence policy. Taiwan, the most likely of any nation to bear the brunt of the Chinese Communist Party's military might, was much more forthright. Joseph Wu, the Chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs council, said Beijing's growing missile capability, increasing naval strength and development of anti-satellite weapons are a threat to Taiwan and the rest of the world.
“China does seek now to be able to project power, or aspires to be able to in the future,” said Dr Paul Monk, managing director of Austhink Consulting and formerly a senior intelligence analyst in Australia's Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO). “The United States and Japan would be less uncomfortable if China was at the same time actually making it clear that the emphasis was on peaceful and constructive relations with all concerned, and we saw no contradictions between its developing capabilities and this rhetoric. But there is still sometimes a gap.”
While Communist China has justified its military expenditure by comparing it with that spent by other nations, most notably the United States, Dr Monk said this comparison is inappropriate, given the different geopolitical roles the two countries play. “The United States has long played an enormous role in guaranteeing the security of much of the world, including the oceans, which is immensely expensive, but China does none of that,” Dr Monk said. “The expense of doing what China claims it is doing should be compared only with the costs of the United States defending its continental home territories.”
Dr Monk said that while Westerners often take a sympathetic attitude to the idea of China seeking to resume its former glory after years of humiliation under the hands of colonial powers, the Chinese Communist regime's rise and ambitions pose serious questions. “The aspiration in China to become the primary power in Asia and possibly in the world,” Dr Monk said, “is way of thinking that could make for very serious trouble.”