Sunday 6 March 2011

China's defence spending up by 12.7%

When the Chinese government announced last year that defence spending might rise by only around 8% I was among those cautiously optimistic that this might signal a slacking-off of the break-neck speed with which the PRC has been improving its military capabilities. However, it seems I was being a tad over-optimistic. This report from the Guardian does a good job of covering all the angles.

Now, as the Guardian report points out, despite the fact that the US (which outspends the rest of the world combined on defence) is reducing its budget, there are a few justifications for this increase. The first, and most obvious, is that China's defence spending, though high compared to many of its neighbours, is still low in comparison to overall GDP at around 1.5% of nominal GDP, and that as China's economy is growing quickly high increases in military spending should be expected. The second is that even though the US is cutting spending, regional rival India is planning an 11.6% defence spending hike.

Still, in the long term these increases, which have out-stripped GDP growth, will give the Chinese military a decisive advantage over all of its neighbours, or any likely combination of them. Whilst official yearly Chinese spending is now around 91.1 billion US dollars, 2009 military spending in South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan totalled roughly 84 billion USD. In fact this year's declared increase in Chinese military spending is equivalent to the entirety of the Taiwanese military budget. Only the commitment of the United States to the defence of Japan South Korea, and Taiwan would give them an edge.

[Picture: Smoke comes from the funnel of the former Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag, now said to be re-named Shi Lang, which is under renovation in Dalian Harbour. Sources suggest it may begin sea trials with the People's Liberation Army Navy as early as the end of this year. Picture via Defensetech]

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