Whatever the Moderators concerns about the political corruption in China, the rapid military expansion in the so-called “Chinese People’s Liberation Army” appears to be directly related to ‘wealth’ inequality and, consequently, China’s limited access to natural resources.
The following stats may explain why:
China’s population is nearly 4 times larger than the US, yet its GDP is about ¼ of the United States, creating a disparity of about 16 to1 against China.
The following article appeared in the Mainlyichi Daily News on January 28, 2009 [See link below]
Why does China continue to undergo such rapid military expansion?
China has issued a white paper entitled “China’s National Defense in 2008,” tracing shifts in its defense budget since the nation first implemented its open door policy in 1978. The dramatic increase in defense spending over the past 30 years is striking.
The first decade saw an average 3.5 percent rise in the defense budget. In the second decade the figure rose to an average increase of 14.5 percent, and the last decade, 15.9 percent. In recent years, the figure has exceeded Japan’s overall spending on national defense — in 2008, China’s military budget was 417.7 billion yuan (approximately 5.849 trillion yen). [US$1 = 90 yen – see date.]
According to Western military experts, however, China’s military spending is actually said to be two to three times the figure, once other military-related expenses designated for categories such as space exploration and foreign aid are taken into account.
Why does China continue to undergo such rapid military expansion? The white paper says that, “China will never seek hegemony or engage in military expansion now or in the future, no matter how developed it becomes.” But this does not amount to a rational explanation and does nothing to reassure neighboring countries.
At one time, China offered an increase in military personnel costs as a result of improved labor conditions as its justification for soaring military expenses. It is more realistic to assume, however, that China’s defense budget increase of recent years is due to qualitative changes made under the country’s shifting military strategy.
The white paper touches upon the military’s pelagic and space capabilities, and as if to confirm the country’s focus, the government has acknowledged its consideration of constructing aircraft carriers. China, furthermore, has succeeded in several manned spacecraft missions, has developed the missile technology necessary to shoot down satellites in orbit, and has continued launching its own positioning satellites crucial to guiding these missiles. China’s aspirations are transparent.
The country’s goal is no longer the preservation of its land, territorial waters, and airspace, but the safeguarding of national interests, now spread across the globe. A debate has emerged within the military about replacing the protection of “territorial boundaries” with that of “boundaries of national interests.” If military expansion is the purpose of this shift, how does it differ from the pursuit of hegemony? The white paper, alas, does not shed light on this question.
Currently the world’s third biggest economy, China obtains the oil and natural gas necessary to support its economic growth via massive pipelines running from Central Asia, Myanmar, and Russia. It has participated in oil field development in Africa and the Middle East, its tank vessels loaded with oil forming a queue in the Indian Ocean, and is hoping to explore undersea resources in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
The economic interests of the country have expanded on a worldwide scale. The Chinese Navy’s deployment of cutting-edge missile destroyers to the waters off the coast of Somalia was not a mere short-term measure for dealing with pirates, but a way to establish the foundations to develop sea lane defense capabilities to Africa’s coast.
How will China’s military buildup be affected by economic growth that has slowed drastically this year? Had this been the China of yesterday, it would have focused its budget on building the economy. Putting the brakes on military expansion once it has gained momentum is no easy task, however, and, whether there will be a shift in the relationship between the government and the military remains to be seen.
Copyright 2009 THE MAINICHI NEWSPAPERS. All rights reserved.
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