U.S. Questions China’s Budget Transparency
By Wendell Minnick
TAIPEI — For the second year, China has sent its annual military expenditures to the United Nations Military Budget Transparency Mechanism.
Submitted early this month, the 2007 report said defense spending rose 17.6 percent to $57.2 billion. The report said China’s defense budget accounted for 1.4 percent of its GDP and 7.2 percent of its overall budget last year.
Government-controlled media was quick to say that spending was “moderate” compared with the U.S. defense budget of $700 billion.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the report “demonstrated again that the Chinese government attached great importance to the issue of military transparency, and actively improved mutual trust with other countries in the military field.”
However, the 2008 U.S. Department of Defense report on China’s military said Beijing significantly under-reports its defense expenditures, which could be between $97 billion and $139 billion.
The published figures do not include “large categories of expenditure, such as expenses for strategic forces, foreign acquisitions, military-related research and development, and China’s paramilitary forces,” the U.S. report said.
China’s budget priorities appear to be “broad-based,” said U.K.-based Thomas Kane, author of “Chinese Grand Strategy and Maritime Power.”
“In the long term, the PRC [People’s Republic of China] faces a diverse range of potential strategic challenges. In the short term, it is unlikely to have to fight wars over any of them,” Kane said.
“Therefore, it makes sense for the PRC to spread its resources over a broad range of areas, even though this will mean that it will take longer to achieve its full goals in any of them.” China is amid a “full-dimensional modernization. Don’t underestimate their latest naval and air platforms,” said York Chen, a former member of Taiwan’s National Security Council, now with the Institute for Taiwan Defense and Strategic Studies.
Defense spending appears to be accelerating China’s naval modernization capabilities, with more submarines capable of carrying intercontinental ballistic missiles and improved warships with greater air defense capabilities.
The other area that continues to improve is in the Second Artillery Corps, responsible for China’s strategic missile force. China is preparing to field a new roadmobile Dong Feng 31A ICBM that can strike Washington.
China has more than 1,300 DF11 and DF-15 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. China is expected to continue to expand its ICBM capabilities and improve upon its land attack cruise missile and anti-ship missile arsenals.
China also is developing antisatellite capabilities, including the ability to blind U.S. reconnaissance satellites with lasers or shoot missiles to destroy U.S. satellites, especially Global Positioning System (GPS) and communication satellites.
“American-style information warfare is very space-reliant,” Kane said. “If the Chinese want to emulate it, they need their own space capabilities, and if they want to deter America, they need to develop space denial capabilities.”
However, Kane said China is expected to divert money to other weaker programs as the military reaches a level of deterrence with Taiwan and the United States.
“Missiles provide China with a deterrent, and they currently compensate for China’s weaknesses in other areas, but other types of forces — that is, strike aircraft — give China a wider range of options in a wider range of situations,” Kane said.
One area China is desperately trying to improve upon is “informatization” and training of its armed forces.
“It is clear that the PLA is undergoing strategic modernization designed to produce an integrated force able to use modern sensors, weapons and data links, operating in a joint manner and able to respond to regional contingencies,” said Larry Wortzel, commissioner of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
China is fielding an increasing number of Beidou GPS satellites in an attempt not to become reliant on the U.S. GPS system. It also is expanding netcentric capabilities and relying heavily on the assistance of private companies, like Beijing-based Venus Info Tech, to improve network security.