Thursday, March 6, 2014

China: Increasing Conflict in Asia Causes PRC to Hike Defense Budget by 12.2%, Which Translates into US$131.57 Billion

According to Reuters, China announced its biggest rise in military spending in three years on Wednesday (March 5), a strong signal from President Xi Jinping that Beijing is not about to back away from its growing assertiveness in Asia, particularly during perilous times.

The Chinese government said it would increase the defense budget by 12.2% in 2014, which translates into US$131.57 billion), which is hardly chump change.

The increase follows a nearly unbroken run of double-digit hikes in the Chinese defense budget, second only to the United States in size, for the past two decades.

The 2014 defense budget is the first for Xi. The increase in spending appears to reflect his desire to build what he calls a strong, rejuvenated China.

Xi also recently urged China's military leadership to work faster to get the country's sole aircraft carrier combat-ready. The spending for defense is the biggest since a rise of 12.7% in 2011.

Within hours of the announcement, officials in Japan and Taiwan expressed understandable concern over the absence of any details on how Beijing will spend the money, concerns long echoed in Washington.

China and Japan, key US allies in the region, are increasingly "rattling sabers" over uninhabited rocky islands each claims in the East China Sea.

COMMENT: Beijing also claims 90% of the 3.5 million square kilometers (1.35 million square mile) South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all claim components of those waters.

China's military spending has allowed Beijing to create a modern force that is projecting power not only across the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas, but further into the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Chinese military watchers intimate that China's genuine increases in technology and other unidentified assets is very likely closer to US$200 billion.

Comparatively speaking, the most left-leaning US President Barack Obama in US history no doubt selected US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel because he would respond like a parrot.

In light of Hagel's plan to cut the defense budget down to pre-WWII levels at a time when "thugs of all ilks" are challenging an increasingly weak and unengaged US president who tells Americans that "things are well in hand." 

Unfortunately for the US, China's expansion of its military assets is very, very close to roughly half of the US defense budget, which for 2014 is $526.8 billion.

China's fighters and surveillance aircraft routinely patrol a controversial new air defense identification zone that covers disputed Japanese-administered islands in the East China Sea. Beijing's aircraft carrier, meanwhile, went on its first exercises in the South China Sea late last year.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said China's lack of clarity in its defense policy and spending was a global concern.

China has repeatedly said that the world has nothing to fear from its military spending, which it says is needed for legitimate defensive purposes and to modernize equipment.

For those not well-versed in China's true motives, I urge you to read Ted C. Fishman's well-reviewed and respected book: