China’s Defense Budget To Rise 17.8%; China’s Rising Defense Budget Worries Analysts
By WENDELL MINNICK, TAIPEI
China’s 2007 defense budget is expected to rise to $44.94 billion, up $6.79 billion, or 17.8 percent, over last year’s announced spending.
The State Council submitted the new budget to the 10th National People’s Congress on March 5.
According to the People’s Daily newspaper, the budget increase will pay for improved living conditions, higher salaries and better training for troops.
Most foreign analysts believe the budget is actually three times the official number. If so, it is still dwarfed by the 2008 U.S. defense spending request of $645.6 billion.
Other complaints range from a lack of transparency to the development of weapons capable of striking the United States.
Not everyone agrees that transparency is a serious issue.
“I think the announcement reflects an increase in the categories of defense spending to which Beijing has previously admitted,” said Bernard “Bud” Cole, a China specialist at the National War College in Washington. “I do not think that U.S. complaints about lack of Chinese transparency have had any significant effect — in fact, I do not agree with the complaints about lack of transparency. I do not think the Chinese budget includes any more classified categories/programs than do most defense budgets.”
Larry Wortzel, commissioner of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, argues that it is not the numbers Washington should be worried about, but what China is buying with those numbers that should concern them.
“The National People’s Congress has always announced increases in defense spending,” he said. “The questions are: What capabilities are being fielded, and what are the Politburo Standing Committee’s intentions in employing those capabilities?”
The international community was disturbed by reports emerging from China earlier this year that the country had destroyed one of its own weather satellites with an anti-satellite missile. Beijing is also reportedly preparing to field a new mobile Dong Feng (DF)-31A intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking anywhere in the United States.
Though China has had the capability of striking deep within the United States for the past 20 years, never before has it been able to launch a nuclear strike anywhere on the U.S. mainland.
New weapon production is believed to be the real reason for the budget increase.
Andrei Chang of the Hong Kong-based Kanwa Defense Review speculates that China’s defense budget will continue to increase by more than 15 percent in the next several years, and that the real figure is at least twice the official number. Chang believes this is due to the massive nuclear and conventional weapons that have just completed testing and are now going into production.
These include the 094 nuclear ballistic missile submarine, JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile, DF-31A ICBM, J-10 fighter jet and new cruise missiles.
Others point out that the recent anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test points to some ominous conclusions about China’s stated goal of a “peaceful rise” as a world superpower.
“While I’m sure that the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] wants its fair share of the economic benefits from China’s booming economy, and that modernizing its weaponry will increase costs, this significant increase in the PLA budget should be seen in light of the ASAT test, the debut of the J-10 fighter, and the 2006 defense white paper which contained a new sense of confidence that was lacking from the previous versions,” said Michael Chambers, editor of the journal Asian Security.
Chang also believes that transparency issues are a major problem.
“Transparency is much lower than even the former Soviet Union,” he said. “Thanks to START [the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] and European conventional arms talks, Western countries knew much more information on Soviet security policy and details of arms development. This is in sharp contrast to China’s defense policy and procurement programs. There are no START-like discussions in China — no arms-control agreements that allow the U.S. to verify the actual inventory of Chinese nuclear weapons and missiles.”
Chambers said, “China is well on its way to becoming a global power, one based on military as well as economic capabilities. To achieve that goal, Beijing will continue to pump funds into the PLA.”