China’s defence budget is now three times that of India’s, which has raised questions about how much Beijing sees New Delhi as a threat.
China’s decision to increase its defence outlay by 8.1% has more do with the situation in the South China Sea, the volatile Korean peninsula and modernising its armed forces than the threat perception from India, experts said on Monday.
Beijing announced the increase in military spending for 2018 against the backdrop of a “large reduction” of non-battle personnel and the streamlining of the number of group armies from 18 to 13.
“The 2018 defence budget will be 1.11 trillion yuan (US$175 billion),” said to a statement released before the opening of the first session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC).
China’s defence budget is now three times that of India’s and against the backdrop of last year’s military standoff at Doklam or Donglang near the Sikkim border, it raised questions about how much Beijing sees New Delhi as a threat.
Shanghai-based military expert Ni Leixong argued the increase was because of several security threats faced by China.
“It is not surprising that China’s defence budget is more than three times that of India’s. That’s because China’s military threats are several times more than India’s, such as the development of Taiwan independence groups, the South China Sea dispute, the dispute with Japan over Diaoyu Islands and the situation in the Korean Peninsula,” Ni said.
“The increase in China’s defence budget sends a signal of living in peace and avoiding military conflicts with neighbours like India,” Ni added.
Delivering the government work report at the Great Hall of the People, Premier Li Keqiang said China has “basically completed the task of reducing the armed forces by 300,000 troops”.
“We have undertaken major missions involving the protection of maritime rights, countering terrorism and maintaining stability, disaster rescue and relief, international peacekeeping, escort services in the Gulf of Aden, and humanitarian rescue,” Li said.
“Military equipment has been significantly modernised, and China has deepened military-civilian integration.”
Ni added, “The focus will be to further develop the PLA navy and air force, radar detection (and) missile defence.
“The increase of 8% sends a signal that the Chinese government insists on the long-term and established principles of peaceful development and on long-term national policies based on domestic construction and a defensive national defence strategy, and not on hegemony.”
A military expert, who wasn’t named, told the nationalistic Global Times tabloid: “The defence budget number accounts for less than 1.5% of the GDP and the per capita expenditure is also lower than other major countries in the world. This shows China insists on peaceful development and a defensive defence strategy.”