Peace policy means more than army budget

By Wang Yiwei Source:Global Times Published: 2014-3-6 19:43:01

China announced Wednesday an increase of 12.2 percent in its military budget for 2014, offering another chance for certain countries to hype up "China's military threat." How can a rise in national defense expenditure be equivalent to a military threat?

First of all, why has China been increasing its defense spending? There is no doubt that a country will raise its military expenditure when its GDP is augmenting gradually. However, some just keep a watchful eye on the point that China's defense budget has increased faster than its GDP growth, which gives them an excuse to condemn Beijing for provoking an arms race in Asia since the US and Europe are working to lower expenditure on national defense.

But what is the reality? The growth rate of China's military expenditure is still relatively low as China is surrounded with a wide spectrum of threats ranging from national separatism, schism to terrorism. We are also surrounded by several nuclear states and mired in bitter territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea and some ASEAN countries in the South China Sea.

As a responsible power that has not resorted to military force in the past 26 years, China must increase its military budget, promoting its capacity to tackle crisis, threats and challenges.

Then, let's tap into the question as for whether China has excessive military spending. The proportion of China's national defense budget of its GDP is much lower than the average level of developed countries (4.4 percent). NATO stipulates that its members' defense budget must be at least two percent of its GDP. So why has China, committed to an independent foreign policy of peace and a non-alliance policy in military affairs, become the target of criticism?

US national defense expenditure per capita is 7.6 times higher than China's and Japan's 3.4 times higher. As China's per capita spending still fails to match the development of its national defense modernization, we need to expand the expenditure, or we will never catch up with the developed world.

It is also imperative for China to raise its defense budget since it needs to assume its due international responsibilities. Liang Qichao (1873-1929), a prestigious Chinese philosopher and reformist during the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and the early Republic of China, once defined China's threefold identity as "China in China," "China in Asia" and "China in the world." China is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, it is the world's largest developing country and the biggest emerging power, which constitutes the multifold identity of present China.

China utilizes the national defense expenditure not merely in its military modernization drive but in peace building to honor more international obligations in peacekeeping, disaster relief and postwar reconstruction in hotspots throughout the world.

What about the transparency of China's military expenditure? Japanese politicians always claim that the opaque increase in China's military spending is a regional threat. Does this mean that if China's spending is transparent, people won't see it as a military threat? Obviously, other countries will not follow Japan's logic. And because states differ in mechanisms and conditions and we lack an international criterion, it is difficult to render an explicit definition of the transparency of military spending.

The rest of the world should recognize that China's rising military expenditure is aimed not only at dealing with security threats but also at taking more international responsibilities.

Moreover, attention should be focused on what military spending is used for instead of whether it rises or falls. Friedrich Engels once said that the people who use arms are more important than the arms themselves.

Similarly, China's foreign policy should receive more heed than its national defense spending. As a positive force devoted to world peace, China's increase in its defense budget endows the international community with an example, not a menace.

The author is director of the Institute of International Affairs and professor with the School of International Studies, Renmin University of China.

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