13 March 2017
China’s recent defence budget increase of seven percent is the lowest in more than 25 years. It could signal a new round of belt-tightening for the People’s Liberation Army. Nevertheless, Beijing is unlikely to pull back from its long-term commitment to build a modern, 21st Century military.
In early March, China announced that it would increase military spending by seven percent this year to 1.044 trillion yuan (US$151 billion). While most militaries would kill for a seven percent increase in defence spending, for China this represented the smallest defence budget increase in more than 25 years.
Moreover, this record increase (in terms of its parsimony) came on top of last year’s budget increase of “only” 7.6 percent increase, or 954.4 billion yuan (equal to $147 billion at the time), which itself was the lowest increase since 2010. Two such modest increases in defence spending beg the question: is China entering a long-term phase of economising and belt-tightening when it comes to its ambitious military modernisation plans, or is this just a temporary blip?
… Richard A. Bitzinger is a Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Military Transformations Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. An earlier version of this Commentary appeared in Asia Times.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 14/03/2017