China defence budget up for the 8th consecutive year
China on Sunday hiked its defence budget by 7.2 percent, marginally higher than last year, to 1.55 trillion yuan (about USD 225 billion), marking the eighth consecutive year of increase in its military spending, amidst global unease about the PLA’s increasingly aggressive behaviour. This is the eighth consecutive year China is increasing its budget allocation in the defence sector. China pegged its defence budget at 1.45 trillion yuan last year, a 7.1 percent increase. This year the defence spending is increased to 1.55 trillion yuan.
However, in view of the appreciation of the dollar against the yuan, this year’s defence spending of China totalled, according to the state-run China Daily, is about USD 225 billion. Last year, China’s defence spending to modernize the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) amounted to USD 230 billion in dollar terms. This is for the eighth consecutive year that China has announced a single-digit percentage point increase in its military budget.
In his work report presented to the National People’s Congress (NPC) opening session – the country’s rubber-stamp parliament – outgoing Premier Li Keqiang spoke highly of the armed forces’ achievements at the borders without directly referring to the still unresolved eastern Ladakh standoff with India. “They carried out operations in a firm and flexible way, and they effectively conducted major missions relating to border defence, maritime rights protection, counterterrorism and stability maintenance, disaster rescue and relief, COVID-19 response, peacekeeping, and merchant ship escorting,” Li’s work report said.
The reference to “major missions relating to border defence” was regarded as significant in the context of offensive actions by the PLA in Eastern Ladakh in May 2020 along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India, triggering a prolonged standoff that has virtually frozen the relations between the two countries.
China is the second biggest spender on defence next to the US whose defence budget for 2023 totalled USD 816 billion. From India’s point of view, however, China’s defence budget continued to be over three times higher. India’s defence budget for 2023-24 amounted to Rs.5.94 lakh crore (about USD 72.6 billion). Aided by increasing defence budgets, the two-million-strong PLA, the world’s largest military, is increasingly getting powerful and assertive with the ever-expanding military modernization of its Army, Navy, and Air Force.
The Chinese military is headed by President Xi Jinping, who is the Chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, the overall high command of the PLA. Xi, 69, the only Chinese leader to have been elected for an unprecedented third five-year term by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) in October last year, also heads the party besides the presidency. Under his leadership, the Chinese military has embarked on a massive military modernization with a goal to be on par with the US armed forces in the next few years.
The Chinese Navy, the fast-expanding arm of the Chinese military, has now three aircraft carriers while its Air Force continues to be modernized with a wide variety of military jets including stealth jet fighters.
Li’s work report also said: “Our national defence mobilization capability was boosted. With these efforts, we fully safeguarded China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests”.
“They stepped up military training, increased combat preparedness, and became a much more modernized and capable fighting force,” said the work report. China’s armed forces, focusing on the goals for the centenary of the PLA in 2027, should work to carry out military operations, boost combat preparedness and enhance military capabilities to accomplish the tasks entrusted to them by the CPC and the people, Li said.
China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarizing its man-made islands in the past few years. Beijing claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, and Taiwan have counterclaims. In the East China Sea, China has territorial disputes with Japan. China is also asserting pressure on Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy which Beijing claims as its own despite never having ruled.
[with PTI inputs]
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They have right to increase it to 100% of their GDP – it will soon falter financially & have a free fall after few / some years from now. What is that they are fighting for ? What will they get ?