PLA rebuffs criticism of budget

By Wu Jiao and Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-06 07:03

Deputies to the National People's Congress from the military listen to Premier Wen Jiabao delivering the government work report in the Great Hall of the People March 5, 2007. [Xinhua]
Senior army officers yesterday countered international criticism of the increase in defense spending, pointing out that China's defense budget is far smaller than many other nations.

This year's defence budget is 350.9 billion yuan ($44.94 billion), a year-on-year increase of 17.8 percent.

The increase, though the largest for five years, is still at a "moderate pace" and the country's overall military spending is still eclipsed by many other countries, said Tan Naida, lieutenant general and former deputy commissar of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) University of National Defense.

China's defense expenditure in 2005 $30.6 billion accounted for only 1.35 percent of the country's GDP, while the United States and Britain spent 4.03 percent and 2.71 percent of their GDPs on defense.

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"How many weapons does China have? How much (is the budget) if converted to US dollars?" Tan said.

"A single mechanised division would cost $5-$6 billion," he said.

"We don't plan to invade any country, but we're also not afraid of anyone coming to attack us," he added.

Most of the money will be used to improve soldier's training and accommodation, including raising wages and the allowance provided for retired personnel.

"It will help offset the impact of consumer goods price hikes and improve the food for soldiers, as intensive military drills demand plenty of energy and a strong body," said Liao Xilong, director of the General Logistics Department of the PLA on Sunday.

"As the increase of our country's economic strength, a moderate increase in military spending is very normal," said Tan.

Tan's views were echoed by Chang Guixiang, a major general and deputy chief of General Staff of the Lanzhou Military Region in Northwest China, who rebuffed the idea there could be a "military threat" from China.

"The nation's military budget rises naturally with its national defense buildup and its overall strength," he said.

"Our military spending is actually lower than many nations in the world.

"It is groundless for other countries to talk of a military threat based on the rise in China's military spending," Chang said on the sidelines of the fifth session of the 10th National People's Congress, which began in Beijing yesterday.

(China Daily 03/06/2007 page5)

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