2012-03-19 (China Military News cited from HARSH V. PANT and by Japan Times) — Once again, for this year, China has announced a double-digit increase in its military spending as concerns continue to rise in Southeast Asian region and beyond about China’s true intentions behind its drive to strengthen its capabilities.
The week before last, Beijing announced that the total defense budget for 2012 would be increased to $106 billion from $95.6 billion last year, an increase of 11.2 percent. And this announced budget excludes vital elements of the Chinese military buildup, such as cyberwarfare, space capabilities and foreign procurements.
A spokesman for the National People’s Congress, who announced the military budget, suggested that the military spending increase was in line with Chinese economic development and that as a percentage of gross domestic product compared with other countries — specifically the United States and Britain — the increase was relatively low.
Much as in previous years, he went on to argue that “China is committed to the path of peaceful development” and “follows a defense policy that is peaceful in nature.” What has been causing concern in Asia and beyond is the opacity that seems to surround China’s military buildup, with an emerging consensus that Beijing’s real military spending is at least double the announced figure.
Just last year, it has been estimated that China ended up spending $160 billion instead of the announced $95.6 billion!
This year’s dramatic rise comes at a time when the U.S. has initiated its foreign policy pivot toward Asia.
As the U.S. secretary of state has already underscored, “the future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the centre of the action.”
At a time when talk of American decline and retrenchment from global commitments has become de rigueur, the signals coming from Washington are that it has no intention of leaving the Asian strategic landscape.
Nor will regional states allow America to lower its profile. After all, the elephant in the room (region) is China’s faster-than-expected ascent in global interstate hierarchy. The new defense strategy outlined by Washington recently is explicitly geared toward tackling the emerging threat from China’s massive and rapid military buildup. It takes forward the already under-way process of reorienting the American military might from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
With his visit to Asia last November and with a new military strategy that focuses on the region, the Obama administration is underscoring America’s commitment to regional stability at a time when the U.S. is wrapping up two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.