Recently, a news article published by Radio France Internationale (RFI) China claimed that China's "budget on maintaining social stability has surpassed its national defense spending" and the nation "is paying a hefty price to keep society stable." Certain Western media outlets seized upon the news like a pack of wolves on a piece of raw meat. They copied, reproduced and then spread the news, without even bothering to check its authenticity.
It is commonsense to not have such items as "maintaining overall social stability" in China's governmental budget. However, in the RFI news report, it said pointedly that about 624 billion yuan ($95.4 billion) has been allocated for that special purpose. That specific number was indeed mentioned in the budget, but it was intended for "public security" rather than "maintaining social stability." This deliberate confusion is clearly aimed at attracting attention, among other ulterior motives.
For one thing, safeguarding public security doesn't equal maintaining social stability, because the former has a wider coverage, such as public health, public transportation and construction safety, which are indispensable to people's daily life, personal health and property safety. And China's spending on public security also covers more areas than just "maintaining social order," including police operations, firefighting and anti-smuggling activities. The RFI China report is clearly misleading readers by calling regular budget "money for maintaining social stability" and creating a false picture that "China is in a mess" and "is paying a huge price to clear it up."
Many countries, not including USA and France, all have a bigger budget on public security than for national defense. Data from the Government Finance Statistics Yearbook in 2009, published by the International Monetary Fund, shows spending on public security in Japan was 157% of its budget on national defense, 105% in the UK, 114% in Germany, 103% in Australia and 109% in Russia. It's no big surprise that China also has a larger budget for public security.
As the Chinese economy grows and the popular demand for public security increases, China's expenditure on public security has witnessed a steady rise in recent years. According to a report published by the nation's Ministry of Finance on budget enforcement of central and local governments, China spent 406 billion yuan ($61.6 million), 474 billion yuan and 549 billion yuan from 2008 to 2010 on public security, a year-on-year increase of 16.4%, 16.8% and 15.6%. These figures correspond roughly with China's increase in fiscal revenue during the same period, which stood at 19.5%, 11.7% and 21.3%. It shows that China's expenditure on public security grows in proportion with its fiscal revenue increase, as opposed to the bloated claim of the RFI China article that China will "splash massive funding to deal with serious social unrest."
In fact, one does not even have to read between the lines to see what the RFI China article is trying to get at: China is a "totalitarian police state." Is that really the case? The United States boasts of a 920,000 police force, and for every 1,000 population, 3.25 policemen are in place to protect them, while in China, the number is just 1.3. On the other hand, as we have already pointed out, major countries like Germany, the UK, Japan, Australia and Russia all have a much bigger public security spending compared to their national defense budgets. RFI China's report that China "set aside huge budget to maintain social stability" has conveniently overlooked these plain facts.
Indeed, China has never been a stranger to spurious reports like this one - and Chinese and international readers know all about it. Actually, Western media has never stopped smearing China - truth be told, they revel in it. What do they want? To see a China in chaos. Only the Chinese won't let them. They, after all, have suffered enough from the turmoil and upheavals of the past. China's accomplishment during the past 30 years since the reform and opening up has only made the Chinese ever more acutely aware of the adage that "development only comes with stability."
This piece is written by Zhou Jijian and was originally published in Chinese on xinhuanet.com.