China’s military is set to have a banner year.
Beijing will increase funding for the military in 2015 by about 10%, The New York Times reports citing Fu Ying, the spokeswoman for China’s National People’s Congress.
This uptick in funding means that the military’s budget will likely grow faster than the Chinese economy this year.
Generally, China’s defence budget increases outpace GDP growth. But this latest increase is likely to be unprecedentedly large.
“This is the first time when the gap [between defence increases and GDP growth] could be really, really big,” Richard A. Bitzinger of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told The Times. “That is, if the economy only grows by, say, 6 per cent, but the defence budget grows by 10 per cent, that’s a really sizable difference. It demonstrates that the Chinese leadership is committed to increasing defence spending, no matter what.”
This increase in funding will place China’s defence budget at approximately $US145 billion, up from about $US129 billion in 2014. Even with this increase, Beijing’s budget is still far behind that of the world’s top military spender, the US.
In 2014, the US spent $US581 billion on defence, about $US15 billion more than the next eight top spenders combined.
China’s increase in spending comes as the country seeks to position itself as the dominant player in the Asia-Pacific region. Beijing currently has active border disputes with Japan in the East China Sea, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia in the South China Sea, along with land border disputes with India throughout the Himalayas.
The most potentially volatile of these disputes is China’s push into the South China Sea. To lay better claim to the region, Beijing has actively pursued the dredging and construction of artificial islands in the area to serve as possible forward military bases and airstrips.
Beijing’s pursuit of its various maritime disputes has led the country to develop its historically inadequate navy into a growing regional force. China now has amixed forceof nuclear attack and ballistic missile submarines, and the country iscurrently developingits second aircraft carrier.
China is developing a host of other weapons systems that may ultimately challenge the balance of power in Asia, including fifth-generation fighters, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and hypersonic weapons.
China has increased its military budget by 500% in real terms since 1995.
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