Fears of military spending unjustified as China fights corruption in PLA

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-3-8 22:28:01

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

China announced Thursday that it will raise its military budget by 10.1 percent to 886.9 billion yuan ($144.2 billion) in 2015. This figure has drawn ire from some Western countries and media who entertain imaginary fears of a "fresh double-digit spending boost" immediately after it was released in a budget report.

The 10.1 percent increase in the defense budget represents the lowest growth in five years. It's in line with China's economic development as the country confronts mounting downward pressure. Funds are needed to modernize China's military and fulfill its commitments to peaceful development.

Comparatively speaking, current Chinese military spending is not particularly large for a country with over 1.3 billion citizens and a territory of 9.6 million square kilometers. China's military budget is less than 1.5 percent of its GDP, while the US, in a sharp contrast, still maintains spending of at least 4.5 percent of its GDP despite military spending cuts in recent years.

China is the largest personnel contributor to UN peacekeeping missions among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, but ranks at the bottom in terms of the proportion of GDP spent on its military.

As a matter of fact, the expansion of China's defense spending is part of a recovery measure.

China is still striving to bridge the gap between it and other major powers in defense-related technology which was caused by a lack of attention and input in this area in the 1980s and 1990s.

Some Western analysts in recent years have hyped up the expansion of China's nuclear-powered submarines in numbers, and they have deliberately neglected the fact that there is still a large gap between China's missile capacity and that of the US.

Besides, China has had to deal with a slew of tough external challenges in recent years. With mounting pressure in the South China Sea and the East China Sea and Japan approving its largest ever military budget in January, China has to stay on high alert to the militarist tendencies of Japan and build its strength to deter possible conflicts or war waged by any audacious neighbors.

Given such circumstances, there is no need for external powers to hype China's intent to boost military spending and they shouldn't turn a blind eye to the defensive nature of Chinese military policies.

Nonetheless, there are concerns within the country regarding the use of the budget in the face of an increasing number of corrupt military officials being exposed.

On March 2, three days before the national legislature convened for its annul meetings in Beijing, a list of 14 generals who are under investigation or have been convicted of graft was released by the Chinese military authority. The list identifies a host of officials,  including Guo Zhenggang, deputy political commissar of Zhejiang's provincial military command, as well as other high-ranking servicemen from major military units.

The investigation is solid proof that there is no limit or ceiling for the anti-graft efforts within the military as a part of the sweeping nationwide anti-corruption campaign. It also illuminates the resolution of the army to catch every corrupt official, be they "flies" or "tigers," to clean up the PLA.

Those corrupt officials are obsessed with embezzlement and kickbacks to satisfy their own wants and whims. They are unlikely to be faithful to their duties and devote themselves to protecting the country. Instead, they are bad apples eroding morale, command and control, and combat preparedness.

But it's notable that they only make up a very small number of military personnel, and the growing aversion to the waste of military resources which is a part of corruption within the military will help supervise the budget.

China's military budget should be spent on research and developing advanced defense-related technologies, upgrading weaponry and improving the livelihoods and incomes of soldiers. We also need to put more efforts in cracking down on corruption to realize the modernization of the troops and enhance combat capabilities.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Yu Jincui based on an interview with Yin Zhuo, director of the Chinese Navy Advisory Committee for Informatization and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. yujincui@globaltimes.com.cn

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