By Li Yueling
China has set its national defense budget at RMB 1355.343 billion (about USD 209 billion) with a 6.8% increase from last year, according to the bill submitted to the two sessions for deliberation this year.
During every year’s two sessions, China’s defense budget is sure to come under the spotlight of foreign media. This time, some of them ascribed the budgetary increase this year to China’s strained relations with neighboring countries, while others groundlessly hinted at the existence of what they call a “hidden military spending” and continued to hype up the “China threat”.
Whether a nation decides to increase or decrease its defense expenditure, how much it will be and how it will be used is all the nation’s internal affair. Other countries have no place on this matter, not to mention point fingers.
Given the socioeconomic development and inflation, it is both necessary and normal to maintain a moderate growth in defense spending in order to effectively cope with the risks and challenges facing the country. The increased defense expenditure will be used to improve the lives and welfare of service members, accelerate the upgrading of armaments and promote the weaponry modernization drive, deepen the national defense and military reform, and guarantee real-combat training and the implementation of diverse military missions.
China’s national defense expenditure has been ranking second in the world over recent years, which is decided by our defense demand, economic size, and defensive defense policy, and is commensurate with our ranking as the world’s secondlargest economy.
The size of a country’s defense expenditure is not only measured by aggregate and absolute volume, but also by average and relative volume.
Internally, China has increased its defense expenditure from a level of sustainability to moderate growth since the reform and opening-up, basically in keeping with the growth in economic and fiscal spending. Its ratio in GDP has been kept within 2% in the past three decades or so with an obvious downturn overall.
Externally, China’s annual defense spending is less than a quarter of America’s and, despite its large size, is on a rather low level in terms of the ratio in GDP and national fiscal expenditure, and the per capita amount per citizen and service member. China’s defense expenditure is consistently less than 2% of its GDP, a percentage that’s not only much lower than in the US, but also the lowest among the permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Embracing more than 22,000km land boundary and 18,000 km coastline, China is one of the countries with the most neighbors, longest land boundaries and extremely complicated maritime security environments. Therefore, the Chinese armed forces are shouldering onerous tasks in safeguarding territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests, and national reunification.
We must be clear-minded about the fact that although China is getting closer to the center of the international stage, its defense expenditure is still far from fully adequate for defending national sovereignty, security and development interests, for fulfilling our international responsibilities as a major country, and for guaranteeing our national development. The Chinese armed forces also have a long way to go before they become modernized enough to ensure national security and be on a par with the world-leading level. The so-called “military threat from China” that foreign media clamor about all year long is nothing but baseless gossip. It’s not a nation’s defense budget and spending, but its defense policy that speaks most loudly about whether it poses a military threat to other countries.
According to the spokesperson of the NPC, China’s defense expenditure is consistent with its economic development level in general. Maintaining an appropriate and steady growth in national defense expenditure is for the protection of the nation's sovereignty, security and development interests and is needed by the nation to fulfill its international obligations and facilitate military reforms. Besides, China’s defense expenditure is transparent as the country submits the basic data of its defense outlay to the UN every year.
The defense development in China is always focused on meeting its legitimate security demand and is always a growth of peaceful forces in the world. For China and the Chinese military, a rising national expenditure and the stronger defense forces will not only further promote world peace and stability, but also provide more reliable public security products for the international community. This is starkly different from what certain western country has been doing, that is, posing as a world cop to throw its weight around when leveraging on its immense military spending and advanced military strengths.
History has proved and will continue to prove that the outdated mindset that a strong country is bound to seek hegemony is not China’s choice. No matter how developed it becomes, the peace-keeping country will never threaten anyone, nor seek any sphere of influence. The Chinese people will decide their defense expenditure independently, having neither use of other countries’ approval, nor their caw and clamor.