China battens down hatches: hikes military spend by 7.2% - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 5 March 2023

China battens down hatches: hikes military spend by 7.2%

PRC’s defence budget is three times India’s and one-third of US


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 6th March 23


The People’s Republic of China (PRC) announced its draft defence budget for 2023 on Sunday, which features a 7.2 per cent rise over the 2022 budget. Beijing-based analysts have called this a “reasonable, restrained increase.”


The 2023 budget will see China’s actual defence spending during the year rise to 1.55 trillion yuan ($225 billion), which amounts to a single-digit budget increase for the eighth consecutive year.


The PRC’s defence spending has grown by 6.6 percent in 2020, 6.8 percent in 2021 and 7.1 percent in 2022.

The proposed defense budget was announced in a draft budget report issued at the opening of the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, on Sunday.


The PRC aims to achieve the centenary objectives of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by August 1, 2027, which is five years away. 


China has set a target of 2035 for modernization of its national defence and the armed forces.


By the mid-21st century, China plans to build its military into world-class forces, Xinhua News Agencyreported on August 1, 2022, on the 95th anniversary of the PLA’s inception.

Analyts say the defense allocations are in line with China’s military modernization roadmap, growing security threats and optimized COVID-19 policies.

China has gradually increased its defense expenditure over many years, in tandem with the country’s economic growth.

National defense modernization consists of mainly the development and procurement of new weapons and equipment, maintaining a high level of realistic combat-oriented exercises and improved welfare to military personnel, an expert observed.


Many global and regional powers around the world have increased military spending in 2023, partly as a consequence of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.


The US is topping the list with a military budget of $817 billion for the Pentagon, more than three times that of China. 


Japan is planning to spend $51 billion on defence, which is 26.3 per cent higher than the previous year’s spending. 


India is raising its capital spending to $21 billion and its overall defence spending by 13 per cent to $72.5 billion. That is 13.2 per cent of all government spending, or 1.97 per cent of India’s gross domestic produce (GDP).

Other countries like the UK, France, Germany and Australia are also looking to boost defence spending, according to media reports.

In 2023, the PLA air force, or PLAAF, is expected to commission more advanced warplanes including J-20 stealth fighter jets and Shenyang J-16 multirole fighter jets to replace legacy Chengdu J-7 fighter jets that are being decommissioned.


The PLA Navy is scheduled to begin sea trials for the country’s third aircraft carrier, the electromagnetic catapult-equipped Fujian. It is also expected to hold more realistic combat-oriented drills that consume large amounts of costly live munitions and fuels.

For the PRC, defence modernization has become an important issue due to what Beijing sees as a deteriorating global security situation. Besides the Russia-Ukraine conflict and China’s backing of the losing side, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, visited the island of Taiwan, leading Beijing to hold a series of large-scale military exercises around Taiwan.

The US and its allies, including Japan, have been hyping the Taiwan question. The US military has been conducting close-in reconnaissance near China’s coastline and transiting through the South China Sea on “freedom of navigation patrols”. 


In 2022, Japan broke away from its post-World War II principle of only having defensive forces and weaponry. Tokyo has begun procuring offensive missiles including US-made Tomahawk cruise missiles that China sees as a threat.


Even so, there is apprehension amongst China’s small Indo-Pacific neighbours at China’s aggressive posture and its steady military build-up in lockstep with its GDP growth. 


For 2023, China has set its GDP growth target at about 5 per cent. For Beijing’s neighbours, that translates into ever-growing territorial ambitions and a growing military arsenal.

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