China's defense budget balances tackling external threats, economic recovery and public's sense of safety
Published: Mar 05, 2021 02:37 PM
File photo: VCG

File photo: VCG

China increased its 2021 defense budget by 6.8 percent to 1.35 trillion yuan ($209 billion), a quicker pace and slight increase compared with 6.6 percent last year. China released the budget increase in a draft budget report issued at the opening of the annual session of the National People's Congress on Friday.

The US' military expenditure accounts for about 40 percent of the world's total. The administration of Joe Biden has not eased its military vigilance against China. For example, it tries to turn the "first island chain" into a fort against China, restrict actions of Chinese warships, and strengthen the deployment of anti-ballistic missile defenses in the "second island chain."

Together with partners and allies, the Biden administration will not ease the military deterrence against China compared with the Trump administration. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in January said that China "presents the most significant threat going forward." In this regard, China must keep strengthening its navy, air force and rocket force and effectively respond to the continuous provocations of the US and other countries.

Therefore, facing such a situation, the increase in China's defense budget is completely justified. Only by strengthening our defense can we effectively respond to provocations and aggression by the US and other countries.

Although China has effectively contained the COVID-19 epidemic, our country's economy is still recovering. China is now gradually recovering from the impact caused by the novel coronavirus. Therefore, the increase in China's defense budget this year is closely related to our GDP growth. The slightly increased growth rate is a moderate and reasonable decision based on China's actual economic conditions.

Chinese people should feel reassured about the 6.8 percent defense budget growth rate and it can also provide people with a basic sense of security. Over the past few years, China's navy, air force and rocket force have all developed rapidly. After a moderate increase in 2021, Chinese military power will be further enhanced.

However, the 6.8 percent growth rate may be a minimum for safeguarding China's core strategic interests. In fact, it is only barely enough. Although China's COVID-19 epidemic situation has improved, our country is still facing tensions on border areas, as well as in the Taiwan Straits and South China Sea. The US is also continuing to provoke China. In this context, the 6.8 percent growth rate can guarantee China's basic needs of defending against remaining problems in the long run and gradually renewing and replacing our strategic weapons. In contrast, the US' military expenditure has always ranked first in the world. Washington has been militarily ambitious, which is very costly.

But this shows China's strategic consideration. First, at the current stage, China still has to focus on fighting the epidemic. National inoculation and economic recovery need huge investment. Only when the economy develops, can more money be put into national defense. Therefore, the slight increase in the defense budget in 2021 is reasonable and will not pose a challenge to the post-epidemic national finances. Meanwhile, the utilization rate of China's defense spending is increasing.  

Second, we do not adopt an offensive military strategy. Based on China's development in the past few years and the steady growth of China's defense spending, a growth rate of 6.8 percent is sufficient and justified. The increase in defense spending serves China's defensive national policy. It exercises restraint and safeguards China's interests at the same time.

This is a slap on the face of the US-led Western countries which hype China's defense growth as a sign of China's militarism and authoritarianism. The US has always hyped the so-called China threat theory. But it is the US that has developed the world's biggest and the most modern army and disturbed many countries and regions. The US is in no position to accuse China's appropriate development.

We must see that despite China's relative smaller defense spending compared with the US, the quality is high and is getting higher. China's defense spending is used to develop weapons and enhance the combat capability of the PLA, while the US uses its defense budget to engage in intimidation and coercion. What's worse, the US military and its defense spending failed to protect American public from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The author is a Beijing-based military expert. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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