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08 August
Saturday

Asia

Will China’s 2020 defense budget increase or decline?

PLA will want to match or exceed last year’s 7.5 per cent growth rate as tensions mount on several fronts

Photo: Lau Ka-kuen

/NOVOSTIVL/ The defense budget, namely the military spending, will be a focus of public opinion at home and abroad as the two sessions begin this week. Will China’s military spending this year increase on the basis of last year, or will it decline? This article appeared in Global Times.

While relations with Washington worsen, Beijing says it also faces threats from pro-independence forces in Taiwan, separatists in Tibet and Xinjiang.

The defense budget, namely the military spending, will be a focus of public opinion at home and abroad as the two sessions begin this week. Will China’s military spending this year increase on the basis of last year, or will it decline?

This year's COVID-19 pandemic has hit China, causing economic growth to suffer. At the same time, the international situation is facing unprecedented turbulence since the end of the Cold War, and China's strategic risks are rising rapidly. It is fair to say that there are reasons for China to increase or cut its military spending. At this moment, the country in particular needs to make strategic planning and come up with the best plan that is most conducive to safeguarding the fundamental interests of all the Chinese people.

In my opinion, China still needs to maintain a positive increase in military expenditure this year for three reasons.

First, although China's economy experienced severe negative growth in the first quarter, positive growth in the second quarter is highly likely. Positive growth for the full year is also what most economists expect.

In accordance with the general principle that the national defense budget should grow in a moderately coordinated manner with the state's economic and fiscal expenditures, the positive increase in China's military spending this year has an economic basis.

Second, the military budget should take into account both the level of economic development and national defense needs. This year, however, the latter factor has become significantly more severe.

As COVID-19 has shaken the globalization landscape and the world order, the US has become more frenzied than ever before, and the ruling elites there have become increasingly open about their hostility toward China, and they have the aggressive impulse to suppress China in extreme ways.

China needs to have a stronger military as a deterrent, to ensure that the US does not dare to act on those impulses because it cannot afford the huge cost. This is the cornerstone of China's peaceful life in these turbulent times. It is the most external shield to protect the interests of us.

Third, China's military spending remains at a low percent of GDP, 1.2 percent of GDP for 2019, far lower than 3.4 percent in the US, 2.5 percent in India, and 3.8 percent in Russia. It is also lower than the 2 percent of GDP that the US requires for NATO member states. I wanted to say that it would be difficult for China to maintain such a low level of military spending in the future due to the fundamental changes in the security situation caused by the US’ designation of China as its top strategic competitor. China will have to adjust its military spending to no lower than 2 percent of its GDP.

The Chinese society that loves peace and values people's livelihood must form this basic strategic rationality.

I know how important peace is to the people. I also know how people value various aspects of the livelihood. Affairs of state often seem too far from our daily lives. But I firmly believe that: Only when China is strong enough that others dare not use military means to coerce us into making strategic concessions can peace truly belong to the people of our country.

Let’s see what kind of defense budget the country will propose for year 2020 at the two sessions.

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