China’s defense budget will have a growth rate of 7.5% in 2019, which is a reduction from the 8.1% growth rate in 2018, according to a draft budget report to be submitted to the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) on March 5th, state news agency Xinhua reported.
The report showed that the 2019 defense budget will be 1.19 trillion yuan (about $177.61 billion).
This may seem as a significant increase, but this is the 4th straight year in which the growth rate is in the single digit percent, since 2016. China’s budgeted defense spending growth rate stood at 7.6 percent in 2016, 7 percent in 2017, and 8.1 percent in 2018.
Prior to that there were 5 straight years of double-digit percent growth rate.
Describing China’s defense budget increase as reasonable and appropriate, Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the annual session of the 13th NPC, said the raise aims to “meet the country’s demand in safeguarding national security and military reform with Chinese characteristics.”
“China maintains a reasonable and appropriate growth rate in its defense expenditure to meet its demand in safeguarding national security and military reform with Chinese characteristics,” were Yesui’s exact words.
Furthermore, while the NATO requirement for national defense spending is at 2%, for China it was at 1.3 in 2018, according to Zhang.
China’s total military outlay, the second-largest behind the United States, is estimated by independent experts to exceed $220 billion a year when off-budget expenses are added in, Stars and Stripes reported.
Zhang Yesui also said that China’s limited defense spending, which is for safeguarding its national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, poses no threat to any other country.
“China will adhere to the path of peaceful development and adopt a defense policy that is defensive in nature,” he said. “Whether a country is a military threat to others or not is not determined by its increase in defense expenditure, but by the diplomatic and national defense policies it adopts.”
Overall, the GDP growth target for China is at 6-6.5% for 2019.
Still, Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2017 pledged to complete the modernization of China’s armed forces by 2035, and to build a “world-class” military capable of winning wars across all theaters by 2050.
The focus on creating a more potent fighting force has seen Beijing pour cash into projects such as a second aircraft carrier, integrating stealth fighters into its air force and fielding an array of advanced missiles that can strike air and sea targets from long distances.
According to an analysis by the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank, China has conducted numerous missile tests, commissioned numerous military hardware in recent years.
Another report by the same think tank estimated that since 2014, China has launched more submarines, warships, principal amphibious vessels and auxiliaries than the total number of ships currently serving in the navies of Germany, India, Spain, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.
Furthermore, the data in the report “also underscores how that Chinese output has accelerated in recent years and throws up some striking comparisons even with recent US naval shipbuilding. In the period 2012–14, US output remained just ahead in total tonnage terms, not least with the launch of the 100,000-tonne aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford. In 2015–17, China was significantly ahead, thanks in part to the launch of its own first indigenous aircraft carrier.”
Thus, China appears to be making rapid progress, even despite the growth that is somewhat lower than at least media suggests China would desire.
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