China's defense budget has become a lightning rod for those keen to claim there is a threat from China, for whatever reason. This year has been no exception, with the announcement that China's defense budget is to grow by 8.1 percent prompting finger-pointing from the usual suspects.
And apart from labeling it as alarmingly high, some Western observers and media are claiming it reflects China’s increasing assertiveness in the East and South China seas.
But although the 2018 defense budget will be 1.11 trillion yuan ($175 billion), the reality of the matter is the increase, though up from last year’s 7 percent, is still relatively low compared with many countries in the world.
China's defense budget is neither the largest in size — it accounts for just one-fourth of the military spending of the United States — nor does it have the fastest growth rate. And if calculated in per capita terms, China’s military lags well behind other major countries.
As to accusations of China's rising assertiveness in the East and South China seas, that is a denial of the truth, as China is merely trying to stand up for itself and its rights. The country has seen its maritime interests being increasingly infringed upon in recent years, and thus seeking a stronger military is natural for it to safeguard its interests and counter any threat that may materialize from the aggressive posturing of others upset by its rise.
Apart from its security needs, as China's interaction with the world has grown, so too have its interests overseas. The country’s military, especially its naval forces, is being increasingly being looked upon to improve its capability and readiness to respond to emergencies, whether that be the evacuation of its citizens from countries in crisis or participating in humanitarian and rescue operations, such as the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.
Whether liked or not, given the uncertainties in the global situation it is a trend of the times for military spending to be on the rise. However, there is no need to fret at China's defense budget hikes because China is committed to a path of peaceful development and it is not seeking to be aggressive in putting its interests first but rather be a builder of a community of shared future for all humankind.