Proposed spending on defense belies cries of alarm

China Daily
Chen Zhuo
2022-03-06 21:11:02

Special operation soldiers line up at a military port in Zhanjiang City, South China's Guangdong province, Jan 15, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

In a draft budget report submitted to China's national legislature on Saturday, the central government has proposed a defense budget in line with the country's national defense needs and its commitment to safeguarding peace and stability in the region and beyond.

If approved by lawmakers, the proposed expenditure of 1.45 trillion yuan ($230 billion) for the 2022 fiscal year will mark a return to a 7-plus percentage increase after slightly slower growth rates in 2020 and 2021. But although it is a 7.1 percent year-on-year increase, it shows China's restraint in hiking its military spending as it maintains a single-digit growth rate for the seventh consecutive year.

China's defense expenditure is still no match to those of major Western countries either in size or in percentage of GDP. In terms of per capita spending, it is much smaller and lags behind many countries in the world. To put its spending in perspective, China's defense budget is about one-third that of the United States, which in the 2022 fiscal year will exceed $768 billion. On a per capita basis, it is only 1/16th that of the US.

The global attention focused on China's defense spending is all too often not objective, and it is frequently accompanied by unwarranted speculation. Some ill-intentioned people use it as an excuse for their twisting of facts and alarmist talk. China's resolve to safeguard its sovereignty and national security is beyond question, but facts speak louder than words and it has remained committed to its defense policy that is defensive in nature.

Facing an increasingly complicated security environment and rising security challenges from the outside over China's core interests and major concerns, as the US and its allies intensify their provocations on the Taiwan question and in the East and South China seas and stir up trouble in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, it is only natural that the People's Liberation Army should accelerate its modernization drive so as to enhance its combat readiness and abilities to safeguard China's territorial integrity and national interests.

China is transparent about the modernization of its military. It aims to accomplish the informatization, mechanization and intellectualization of the PLA by the 100th anniversary of its founding in 2027.

This year's Government Work Report showed that the focus is on modernizing the military's logistics and asset-management systems, building a modern weaponry and equipment management system and spurring defense innovations. These are in line with the trends of the times as defense is not immune to the digitalization revolution.

But no matter how much defense expenditure is invested or how modernized its armed forces are, China will never seek hegemony, expansion, or sphere of influence.

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