China’s modernization program for their military forces looks to advance even fast as they will increase military spending 8.1 percent in 2018. With new stealth fighters and a second aircraft carrier being built, the Chinese military looks to project power far beyond its borders.
A budget document made available to the media before the opening of China’s 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing on Monday, reveals China will spend the equivalent of US$175 billion across all branches of the People’s Liberation Army.
The 8.1% increase is higher than last year’s announcement when it upped military spending by 7% over the previous year. In straight dollar terms, US military spending far outweighs China’s. The Pentagon has requested a budget of $686 billion in 2019, up $80 billion from 2017.
China’s budget announcement comes as President Xi Jinping, the commander in chief of the country’s armed forces, focuses on increasing both the sophistication and reach of the country’s military.
He’s also seeking to expand his influence within the upper echelon’s of China’s leadership with a change to the constitution to extend his term in office, possibly indefinitely.
Speaking to reporters Sunday, Zhang Yesui, a spokesman for the NPC, said that even with the latest increase, China spends less of its gross domestic product than other major military powers.
“A large part of the growth of the defense budget is to make up for the low military spending in the past and is mainly used to upgrade equipment and improve the welfare of servicemen and women and the living and training conditions of grassroots troops,” said Zhang.
According to the independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report on comparative military spending released last year, the US leads in total dollars spent, about three times that of China, and nine times that of Russia in third.
The Chinese do lack in one area, combat experience, having not had troops in combat since their short border war with Vietnam in 1979. What they lack in that area they make up for in intensive training.
As the Chinese army becomes more modernized, it is also getting leaner, they’re planning on cutting about 300,000 troops from the force, going below the one million mark for the first time since its founding.
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