Opinion / Featured Contributors

China right to increase defense spending

By Chua Chin Leng ( Updated: 2016-03-11 10:32

China right to increase defense spending

Major general Li Ming leads his formation during the military parade in Beijing, Sept 3, 2015. [Photo/Xinhua]

Whenever China announces that it is raising its defense budget, the Americans and other Western media not only protest but also go hysterical. They start claiming that China has hegemonic intent. To the Americans, China must not increase its defense budget if it wants to be a good international citizen. Only the Americans have the right to spend as much as they want on maintaining the largest military machine in the world, to conduct regime change and to threaten and invade countries unchallenged

The Americans spent $598 billion on defense compares to China's $140 billion in 2015. In terms of land mass, the US and China are fairly similar in size. In population China dwarfs the US by 1.4 billion to 300 million. China is justified in both counts to increase its defense spending compared to what the Americans are spending.

And the Americans have been spending in the hundreds of billions for many decades while China has only recently been able to spend a fraction of the American budget. The cumulative effect of the American budgets over the decades means that the Americans have 11 aircraft carrier groups and the largest and most formidable arsenal ever acquired in one country in human history. What China has in comparison is simply spartan, one aircraft carrier that is actually a retrofit Russian ship for training purpose. How many more billions would China need and how many more decades would China take to reach parity with the Americans, if it ever would happen at all?

Is China justified to increase its defense budget? Or should China continue to spend frugally, miserly on its defense and to be militarily threatened by the Americans as and when they feel like doing so, flying B52 bombers into Chinese airspace carrying nuclear weapons to threaten China, or sailing warships into Chinese territorial waters to challenge and mock at China?

Why is it normal for the Americans to spend $600b annually and not normal for China to spend $150b or $200b on its defense budget? A growing China with investments all over the world would need a comparable defense capability to protect its investments and the safety of its nationals, including the Chinese diaspora that have been hapless for the last two centuries and had fallen victims to many ethnic cleansing incidents with no protection.

An emerging China as a super power has many responsibilities to the world other than just its national interests. China would have to play a bigger role in the security of the world at large, to protect countries from aggression and regime change by hegemonic powers, to protect trade routes and freedom of navigation in the high seas. China needs to be a factor in the balance of power in order to maintain peace and to prevent wars of aggression.

China can no longer just think of its own national interests but that of the world. As a responsible super power China has to help do the world justice. China must increase its defense spending if it wants to be an active, respected and responsible member of the international community.

The author is a political observer from Singapore.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and don't represent views of China Daily website.


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