05 March 2014
BEIJING– The double-digit increase in China’s 2014 defense budget amounts to the biggest increase in absolute terms in at least a decade — $14.4 billion — and serves as a sign that Beijing is determined to prioritize military spending as the Pentagon faces cutbacks.
The 12.2% rise in military spending unveiled in a government budget plan Wednesday wasn’t unusually big in percentage terms; China’s defense budget has grown by an annual average of more than 10% for over two decades.
Measured in absolute terms, the 88.03 billion yuan ($14.4 billion) increase is the largest since at least 2005 and takes China’s overall military budget to 808.23 billion yuan ($131.57 billion) — more than double what it was in 2007, according to official Chinese figures.
Coming at a time of overall slower economic growth, the outlay suggests that Chinese President Xi Jinping is ring-fencing defense-spending rises to ensure political support from military commanders and to finance Mr. Xi’s stated goal of re-establishing China as a major world power, analysts said.
“It just shows how sacrosanct the defense budget is. They’ve made this decision that defense spending will be supported, no matter what,” said Richard Bitzinger, an expert on regional military modernization at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
“This is the rich-nation, strong-military syndrome. It’s the idea that you have to be able to show hard power as well as soft power. A strong military is part of the China Dream,” he said, referring to one of Mr. Xi’s signature slogans.
GPO / IDSS / RSIS / Print
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