Beijing (hooly News) – China announced Friday a slight deceleration in military spending for 2020: still far behind that of the United States, it remains solid (“6.6%) despite the gloomy economic environment inherited from Covid-19 .
The defense budget is scrutinized by many Asian neighbors of Beijing, with whom it maintains territorial disputes.
Despite the decline in tax revenue due to the Covid-19, the army will spend this year 1.268 billion yuan (178 billion dollars, 163 billion euros), according to a report by the Ministry of Finance published at the opening of the annual session of Parliament.
This is only a slight deceleration compared to last year (“7.5%).
“Beijing thus shows that its priority is to have a stable military budget to continue modernizing the army,” said Adam Ni, a specialist in the Chinese army at Macquarie University in Sydney.
“Raising defense spending as much despite the contraction of the economy (-6.8% in the first quarter) is a sign that China is sliding towards an arms race”, judge Rory Medcalf, defense expert in Asia at the ‘Australian National University.
But what will this money be used for?
China insists on the need to improve the pay of the military and to increase their training (which requires more ammunition and fuel).
The increase in the military budget generally follows economic growth, for which, unusually, no quantified target for 2020 was announced on Friday by Prime Minister Li Keqiang. It also reflects President Xi Jinping’s ambition to create a “world class army”.
– Missile and aircraft carrier –
It is currently carrying out a major reorganization (to improve land-air-sea coordination) and improve its equipment.
In the past 12 months, the Chinese army has notably presented its new intercontinental ballistic missile DF-41 (multi-nuclear heads) reputed to be able to strike any point of the United States.
The navy officially took possession in December of “Shandong”, its second aircraft carrier (the first of 100% Chinese design), and of a new advanced destroyer (Type 055).
Objective: to strengthen its defense against the US Navy, which is cruising near the Chinese coast.
Several neighbors of China have territorial disputes with it – notably India (at the Himalayan borders) and Japan (in the East China Sea).
In early May, Chinese and Indian soldiers fought again at the border, and a Japanese fishing boat was chased by Chinese vessels near the Diaoyu / Senkaku Islands, controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.
The Chinese army is also very closely watched by Taiwan, considered by the People’s Republic as part of its territory, to be taken back by force if necessary. And also by the countries bordering the South China Sea.
This maritime area, as large as six times France, has countless islands and rich in hydrocarbons.
China and other nations (Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam) compete for islets and reefs there and Washington regularly sends warships to the area to challenge Chinese ambitions.
– Already a threat –
“As the largest and arguably the strongest military power in Asia, China is already a threat to the United States and other nations in the region in terms of military equipment,” notes James Char, expert on the Chinese army at Nanyang University of Technology, Singapore.
“But that does not mean that she is preparing to go to war,” he nuances.
Apart from a military base in Djibouti and its participation in the UN peacekeeping forces, the Chinese army has very little presence abroad – unlike its American counterpart.
In fact, Beijing’s military spending remains about three times lower than that of the United States.
In 2019, these were the first in the world ($ 732 billion), ahead of China (261), India (71), Russia (65), Saudi Arabia (62) and France (50), according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).
“But money alone is not enough,” notes James Char. “The Chinese military will need many more years and training to improve the cohesion, interoperability and integration of the various services of the army.”