Beijing: China is recognised as the second-largest military spender after the United States (US). It has hiked its defence budget from last year’s 177.6 billion to USD 179 billion. The defence budget is nearly three times that of India.
However, the amount increased is the lowest increment in recent years. This is due to the heavy disruption caused to its economy by the COVID-19, according to the official media.
Largest army strength
China has the world’s largest military of two million troops. It will continue to lower its defence budget growth rate to 6.6 per cent in 2020. This information is available according to a draft budget report presented Friday to National People’s Congress (NPC). The NPC is the country’s top legislature.
The 2020 defence budget continues to see single-digit growth for a fifth consecutive year. It is the lowest growth rate in recent years, the state-run ‘Xinhua’ news agency reported. China’s total defence spending in 2019 only amounted to a quarter that of the US States.
No hidden figures
Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the NPC in a media briefing Thursday played down criticism about lack of transparency in China’s defence expenditure. According to a section of the Chinese media the defence spending are much more than announced. This is apparent considering the rapid expansion of Beijing’s military and modern weapons.
Zhang said China had no ‘hidden military spending’. China has been submitting reports on its military expenditures to the United Nations every year since 2007, he said. “From where the money comes from to how the money is used, everything is accounted for,” Zhang asserted.
Budget from other sources
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has different figures to offer. It said the military expenditure figures of China’s defence spending in 2019 amounted to USD 232 billion.
Headache for many countries
Beijing’s massive defence modernisation drive is certainly becoming a worry for many countries. It has pushed India and a number of other countries to hike their own defence budgets. This is to ensure reasonable balance of power.
India’s defence spending
India’s budget for 2020 amounted to USD 66.9 billion (Rs 4,71,378 crore). This figure was available in a write-up in the Indian Institute for Defence and Analysis, (IDSA).
China’s defence spending has been staying at around 1.3 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) for many years. It is well below the world’s average of 2.6 per cent, Zhang said.
Since Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power, China has revamped its defence forces. It has cut its army strength by three lakh troops. However, it has enhanced its naval and air power as Beijing expanded its influence abroad.
China currently has one aircraft carrier, the second one is undergoing trials while the third is being built. According to official media reports, China plans to have five to six aircraft carriers in near future. This is to challenge the US all around the world including in Beijing’s backyard the South China Sea (SCS).
China claims all most all of the SCS as its territory. Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims on it.