China’s Military Brass Does Not Want to Challenge America

The Defense Budget Continues to Grow

China is clearly increasing its military spending this year less drastically than in previous years. The National People’s Congress disclosed on Thursday in Beijing that a 7.5 percent increase in the defense budget is planned. This is the smallest increase in military spending in two decades and could be a consequence of the financial crisis.

Beijing also probably wants to dispel global concerns about the rapid political and military rise of China. Since the 1990s, the Chinese defense budget has grown annually by double digits — 17.6 percent in 2008 and 14.9 percent in 2009.

The budget still must be approved by the delegates in the National People’s Congress, which is beginning its annual session on Friday in Beijing. The Congress spokesman, former Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, said military spending would amount to approximately 532 billion yuan (€57 billion) this year, and that a balance between military spending and economic development should be achieved. Last year, China’s economy grew by 8.7 percent.

Transparency Is Lacking

The former foreign minister affirmed that China is following a path of “peaceful development” and is pursuing a “defensive” defense policy. Some neighboring countries in particular view the rapid modernization of the Chinese army with concern. American military experts are criticizing the lack of transparency of defense spending. The Pentagon believes the actual military spending in China is two or three times higher than officially stated.

A book written by Brigadier General Liu Mingfu has received some attention this week. In it, the author explains that it is China’s goal to challenge America’s position and to become the 21st century’s greatest global military power. However, high-ranking Chinese military officers dispute the author’s portrayal. They say China’s military development is not meant to challenge the United States. For the moment, Beijing apparently wants to avoid a further deterioration in relations with America.

Since President Obama’s visit to China in November, there have been ill feelings between the two powers. That is why two high-ranking diplomats and advisers in the Obama administration traveled to Beijing this week to smooth out the tensions in the bilateral relationship.

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