Moderate increase in China’s defence budget likely in Covid-hit year, say experts
The Chinese finance ministry is expected to announce the outlay for the sector on the first day of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s legislature, which begins for a delayed and short session on Friday.Updated: May 20, 2020 19:55 IST
China is likely to increase its soon-to-be announced 2020 defence budget moderately in the backdrop of an epidemic-hit economy but also to have adequate resources to face challenges at home and abroad, military experts said Wednesday.
The Chinese finance ministry is expected to announce the outlay for the sector on the first day of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s legislature, which begins for a delayed and short session on Friday.
In March, 2019, Beijing announced a yearly budget of 1.19 trillion yuan ($177.5 billion), marking a 7.5 percent increase from the 2018 budget of 1.11 trillion yuan ($167.4 billion).
China, the world’s second-largest economy, sank by a historic 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to a year earlier following a battering by the Covid-19 outbreak in the first quarter.
“My personal opinion is that China’s military spending should increase moderately. The gap between China’s actual needs and the actual figures for military spending is huge, and the problems China faces are numerous and the dangers are growing,” Song Zhongping, Hong Kong-based military expert said.
Among the external factors, Song highlighted China’s rising tension with the US, Taiwan’s, which China says is a breakaway region, “provocative statements”, Sino-India tension at the border and the volatile situation in the dispute ridden South China Sea.
Shanghai-based military expert Ni Lexiong said many of China’s neighbours like India, Russia and Japan have joined the “arms race” in east Asia, an “…external factor that have prompted the mainland to significantly increase its military spending”.
Ni, however, agreed that the government needs to maintain a balance in its defence budget – a balance between the domestic economic situation and the need for the armed forces.
“Personally, I feel, the increase can’t be too much more than last year; but to increase it by less than last year, it will be suspected (by the international community) that China is weak. Therefore, a slight increase maybe a balanced move,” Ni said.
“The moderate increase in China’s military spending is also in line
with the needs of our economic development; if the increase in GDP this year is 3%, 4%, I think the increase in military spending should be around 5% (more than last year),” Song said.
Song added that the epidemic has also made the PLA aware of the need for increased military spending to improve its ability to respond to biological warfare.
“China will not engage in an arms race no matter how much it increases its military spending. If military spending is raised to over 4% or 5% of GDP, it is called an arms race,” Song said.