China's defense budget has always been a hotly debated topic during the annual full session of the National People's Congress, the country's top legislative body. This year has been no exception, with world attention once again riveted on China's enlarged military expenditure, said to be necessary for maintaining peace and stability. Chen Hu, Executive Editor in Chief of the World Military Affairs magazine shares his vision on China's ever-expanding defense spending and the necessity behind it with People's Daily Online. Excerpts follow:
China's defense spending for 2007 is expected to reach 347.232 billion yuan, 17.8 percent higher than that of the previous year, according to a draft central budget submitted to the top legislature on March 5.
As the world's most populous country, China's absolute defense expenditure and per-capita defense spending are respectively less than one 10th and one 200th of that in the United States. China's defense expenditure remains low as compared with developed nations, either in terms of its ratio to the total national revenue and expenditure, or in the ratio of per-capita defense spending to per-capita gross domestic product.
Of all relevant figures concerning China's military spending, the annual growth rate in defense budget is the only relatively higher figure in China's defense expenditure, and this is taken as the focal point for some overseas critics to make random comments or irresponsible exaggerations. In fact, the base of China's present defense spending is small. Even if the defense spending is to increase at the current rate, China will take a long time to approach the current levels of some developed nations. Moreover, these very nations will continue to expand their own defense spending as China expands hers.
Mention of China's defense budget will have these overseas critics habitually refer to the so-called "invisible military spending." As a matter of fact, any country, in drawing up its national expenditure, would think of its own specific national conditions and conventional practices. Take the United States for instance, its spending for research, production and maintenance of nuclear warheads is incorporated into the expenditure of its Department of Energy outside the category of the defense budget. Furthermore, spending on military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq does not figure in the sphere of its military spending.
To delve into, or analyze, if a country is rational or not with its defense budget, the basic yardstick is to see where its military spending is used and what outcome it has effected. In a decade or so after the end of the Cold War, a state of relative peace and stability has existed in China's neighborhood. This iron-clad evidence alone has testified to the very truth that its defense budget is, in essence, an investment in peace. To a certain extent, China's fast economic development and huge profits other countries have reaped here are precisely the "dividends" acquired from its input in peace. To date, China is still facing immense threats from secessionism, terrorism and global hegemonism. So it is also vital and crucial for it to appropriately increase its defense spending for the sake of containing wars and safeguarding its stability and defending world peace. Though the amount of a country's defense budget deserves attention, the focus of the attention should be on the issue of whether such input has been invested in peace or been used to pay for wars.