Friday, March 04, 2005

Chinese Military Spending to Jump

At its annual parliamentary meeting in Beijing, the Chinese government announced that it will increase military yearly expenditures by 12 percent.

Friday's announcement is the latest in a series of regular cash infusions to try to upgrade and modernise China's army.

But Jiang Enzhu, a spokesman for China's parliament, played down the significance of the rise, which will take official military spending to 247.7bn yuan ($29.9bn).

He said the money would help pay for more training and modern weapons, but stressed that much of it was needed to boost soldiers' pay and cover the social costs of cutting 200,000 personnel.

He added that China's defence spending was far lower than that of other major powers.

However, many hawkish voices on China in the US administration believe that Beijing's figures may understate the real level of military spending.

The rise in Chinese military spending comes just weeks after Japan broke with decades of passive foreign policy and joined the US in listing the defense of Taiwan as a primary defense concern (see earlier posts). That drew an angry response from Beijing which continually threatens to invade the little democratic island. As the US and Japan move toward an increasingly unified defensive posture against China, the European Union is preparing to lift its nearly 15 year old embargo on arms sales to China, despite American and Japanese pleas to keep the ban in place (see earlier posts). The Chinese parliament - which, despite its name, does not function in any manner resembling the parliament of a democratic nation - is also considering an "anti-seccession" law which would make provide explicit legal justification for invading Taiwan should the island dare to declare independence.

Mr Jiang stressed in his news conference that it was not a "war mobilisation order".

But he also warned: "Taiwan independence forces and their adventurous moves have seriously threatened China's state sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The anti-secession law will be addressed in a speech by NPC Vice Chairman Wang Zhaoguo on Tuesday. And analysts will also watch for any mention of it during Premier Wen Jiabao's work report on Saturday.
Though China is a one-party state and all dissent against the ruling communist party is brutally repressed, the Chinese government still manifests the same instinctive paranoia that all repressive regimes display.

As is usual for China's annual parliamentary session, security is tight in the capital.

Cars are searched as they enter Beijing, and there is a ban on hot air balloons, model aircraft and paragliders.

"More than 650,000 people will stand guard and go on patrol on the city's streets and lanes every day to guarantee security," the Legal Evening Post quoted a Public Security Bureau official as saying.
Unlike the US, where security surrounding government events and national monuments became forceful after the September 11th atrocities, China does not find itself currently at war, at any immediate risk of imminent military attack, or targeted by international terrorists. So one might wonder exactly of whom the Chinese government officials are afraid. Perhaps their own people?


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