Nation lowers defense budget growth to 7.5% in 2019

By Liu Xuanzun Source:Global Times Published: 2019/3/5 23:08:40

Expenditure targeted at weaponry, training, reform & troop salaries

Military delegates walk across Tiananmen Square to participate in a session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

China's defense budget 2010-2019

China announced Tuesday that its defense budget for 2019 is 1.1899 trillion yuan ($177.5 billion), a 7.5 percent increase from 2018, lower than the 8.1 percent increase from the previous year.

The figure was made public on Tuesday at the second session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC).

Xu Guangyu, a senior consultant at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the figure shows the modernization of the Chinese military remains at a normal and stable instead of a premature rush.

Some foreign analysts predicted the growth rate would exceed 10 percent due to tensions between China and the US in the South China Sea and across the Taiwan Straits, but that is just not the case as China's national defense development is not decided by isolated events, Xu said.

China's annual defense budget shifted from double-digit to single-digit growth in 2016.

Compared to the 2019 growth target for GDP of between 6 and 6.5 percent according to the Government Work Report, the growth rate for military funding is faster.

"The growth rate of the defense budget did not break away from the GDP growth target by much," Xu said, noting that China's military funding is still closely related to GDP.

Li Daguang, a professor at the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), said that instead of focusing on the defense budget growth versus GDP growth, people should see that China's military expenditure only accounts for a small portion of its GDP, far less than other major countries.

The military expenditure for 2018, 1.107 trillion yuan, accounts for about 1.3 percent of China's GDP, a figure significantly lower than the world average of 2.6 percent and major military powers like the US and Russia, which have a defense expenditure: GDP ratio of 4 percent on average in recent years, according to data gathered by PLA Daily.

Back when China's economy skyrocketed at the beginning of reform and opening-up, military expenditure growth remained slow. Now that China's economic growth has stabilized, it is reasonable that the defense budget rises faster than GDP, according to Li.

Some foreign reports questioned the transparency of China's military budget, claiming that the actual expenditure could be higher than the released number, which is yet another example of "China threat theory" rhetoric, according to Chinese military experts.

"China's military modernization is meant for self-defense and not to threaten  other countries. We should not care much about what others say," said Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military analyst.

People should see that China's military development has also brought much benefit to the world including fighting piracy, providing medical services to developing countries with naval hospital ships and taking part in UN peacekeeping missions, Wei told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"Whether a country poses a military threat to others or not is decided by its diplomatic and national defense policies instead of how much it increases its defense budget," Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the second session of the 13th NPC, said at a press conference on Monday.

"China has only a limited defense budget, and it is used for safeguarding the country's sovereignty, security and territorial integrity. This will not pose a threat to other countries," Zhang said.

Weapons and training

Military expenditure in 2018 would mainly pay for the development of weaponry and equipment, the improvement of training conditions, military reform and troop salaries and benefits, the PLA Daily reported in March 2018.

This general direction will not change in 2019, although there might be a slight dynamic change in allocation, Xu said.

Although China has been developing advanced weapons like fighter jets, strategic bombers, ballistic missiles and aircraft carriers, the country's overall military technology still lags behind countries like the US and there are stockpiles of outdated weapons and equipment that need to be replaced with newer ones, analysts said.

The PLA has been undertaking intensive combat training in 2019 according to media reports. This training usually features massive amounts of live munitions and realistic targets, plus the deployment of large and advanced vehicles, vessels and aircraft consuming expensive fuel.

As China intensifies training to keep troops engaged during peace, sufficient funding is needed to make the exercises as realistic as possible, which was not possible in the past, experts said.
Newspaper headline: Nation lowers defense budget growth to 7.5%


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