China on Sunday announced an 11.2 per cent hike in military spending in 2012, in a move expected to raise questions about its longterm intentions in the Asia-Pacific.
Reuters wrote that the increase would bring official spending on the People’s Liberation Army — the world’s biggest — to 670.3 billion yuan ($110 billion) for 2012, after a 12.7 per cent increase in 2011.
It is also Beijing’s first defence budget since President Barack Obama announced a strategic “pivot” to reinforce US influence across the region.
And it comes at a time when China’s Asian neighbours are “already unnerved by the country’s growing assertiveness in pressing territorial claims,” the Washington Post wrote.
Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines are among the countries that have maritime disputes with China.
Li Zhaoxing, a spokesman for China’s national parliament, described the budget as “relatively low” as a percentage of gross domestic product compared with other countries.
Li and said it was aimed at “safeguarding sovereignty, national security and territorial integrity,” Channel News Asia reported.
“It will not in the least pose a threat to other countries,” he reportedly added.
However, according to the Associated Press, China’s two-decade-long military buildup — characterised by nearly unbroken string of double-digit rises — has created “a formidable regional force, increasingly able to project power far from China.”
Among their recent acquisitions were new nuclear submarines and modern surface vessels, including the country’s first aircraft carrier, a home-built J-10 jet fighter and a new J-20 stealth fighter.
(GlobalPost reports: Doubts and fears over Chinese “stealth fighter”)
And Reuters quoted Kazuya Sakamoto, an international security professor at Osaka University in Japan, as saying: “China shares its land border with 14 countries; it used to make sense that a country in such a position maintains strong conventional forces. But in this nuclear age, it does not really make sense China, a nuclear-armed country, continues to build up its military at such a pace.”
Channel News Asia cited analysts as saying the smaller-than-expected increase in spending this year was Beijing’s attempt to ease the concerns of Washington and the region about its growing military might.
It quoted Willy Lam, a leading China expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, as saying “It is doubtful whether the message will get across because most countries know that the real budget is at least double the published one.”
(More from GlobalPost: Old problems plague New India)
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