With another double digit increase in China’s military spending, Asian neighbours are worried, especially Japan. The United States is also concerned. The biggest such rise in three years, bringing it to nearly 96 billion euros, was announced at China’s National People’s Congress.
Only the US spends more. Its Defense Department base budget for 2014 is more than 383 billion euros.
In 2012, Beijing boosted the military budget by more than 11 percent, last year by nearly 11, and this year the increase is more than 12 percent.
The government has not revealed the total amount earmarked for internal security this year, though it did the last three years in a row, and those budgets were even higher than for outward-looking military spending.
Last year there was an 8.7 percent internal security spending increase, to cover dissident surveillance, journalists, Internet control and security for individuals, for example.
For military programmes, the stated aim is to “strengthen research, develop high-tech equipment and enhance border, coastal and air defences”.
In response to criticism from Japan, the Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing, Qin Gang, said China’s military is not made up of “boy scouts with spears”.
Gang told a briefing: “I must emphasise once again, I must repeatedly indicate that China is quite big. The world’s state of affairs is very complex. China’s defence budget follows China’s economic development. A modest increase is completely within reason. There is nothing big to fuss over.”
But others are nervous. China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of those waters.
Tokyo and Beijing both claim some rocky islands over which relations have got worse since 2012 as China moves to assert its sovereignty in disputed territory and challenge the traditional dominance of US forces in the region.
Japan’s Cabinet Secretary-General Yoshihide Suga said: “We will work with the international community and the surrounding countries to look into increasing the transparency of China’s defence policies.”
Beijing has a new aircraft carrier and says it has begun building another. China is also at work on other surface ships, submarines, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and developing technology to destroy missiles in mid-air.