China continues to increase its military budget

BEIJING | China has announced Friday a slight deceleration of its military spending to 2020: still far behind those of the United States, however, they remain solid (+6.6 per cent) despite the morose economic context inherited from the COVID-19.

The defence budget is scrutinized by many east asian neighbours Beijing, with which it has territorial disputes.

Despite the decline in tax revenues due to the COVID-19, the army is going to spend this year 1,268 billion yuan (249 billion dollars), according to a report from the ministry of Finance published at the opening of the annual session of Parliament.

It is only a slight deceleration compared to the previous year (+7.5 per cent).

“Beijing shows that his priority is to have a military budget that is stable to continue with the modernisation of the army,” says Adam, Nor, specialist of the chinese army at Macquarie university in Sydney.

“To increase as much as the defence spending despite the contraction of the economy (-6,8 % in the first quarter) is the sign that China is sliding into an arms race,” judge Rory Medcalf, an expert on the defense in Asia at the australian national University.

But what is the purpose of this money?

China insists on the need to improve the balance of the military and increase their exercises (which requires more ammunition and fuel).

The increase in the military budget generally follows economic growth, for which, unusually, no quantified target for 2020 has been announced on Friday by prime minister Li Keqiang. It also reflects the ambition of the president Xi Jinping to create “an army of world-class”.

Missile and aircraft carrier

It is currently conducting a major reorganization (in order to improve the co-ordination land-air-sea) and improve its equipment.

In the past 12 months, the chinese military unveiled a new intercontinental ballistic missile DF-41 (multihead nuclear) deemed capable of hitting any point in the United States.

The navy has formally taken possession of in December of the “Shandong”, its second aircraft carrier (the first design 100 % chinese), and a new destroyer of the edge (Type 055).

Objective: to strengthen his defence in the face of the US Navy, which crosses near the chinese coast.

Several neighbors of China, have with it of the territorial issues — especially in India (at the level of the himalayan borders) and Japan (east China sea).

In early may, chinese soldiers and indians are still measured at the border and a japanese fishing boat was caught in a chase by chinese vessels near the islands of Diaoyu/Senkaku, controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.

The chinese military is also heavily monitored with Taiwan, considered by the people’s Republic as a part of its territory, to regain by force, if necessary. And also by the countries bordering the south China sea.

The sea area, as large as six times the size of France, has countless islands and of the fund that are rich in hydrocarbons.

China and other nations (Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam) are arguing over islands and reefs, and Washington regularly sends war ships in the area to challenge china’s ambitions.

Already a threat

“As the largest and no doubt strongest military power in Asia, China is already a threat to the United States and other nations in the region in terms of military equipment,” notes James Char, an expert on the chinese military at the University of technology, Nanyang, Singapore.

“But this does not mean that it is preparing to enter the war”, he adds.

Apart from a military base in Djibouti and its participation in the peacekeeping forces of the UN peace, the chinese army is very limited abroad — in contrast to its american counterpart.

In fact, the military spending of the Beijing remain approximately three times lower than those of the United States.

These last were in the 2019 first global (732 billion), ahead of China (261), India (71), Russia (65), saudi Arabia (62) and France (50), according to the international Institute of peace research in Stockholm (Sipri).

“But money alone is not enough,” notes James Char. “The chinese military will take years and additional training in order to improve the cohesion, interoperability, and integration of the different services of the army”.