Foreign and Military Affairs

Defense policy is peaceful

Updated: 2011-03-08 08:02

By Yang Yi (China Daily)

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A few days ago, Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the annual session of the National People's Congress told a press conference that China's defense budget for 2011 would increase by 12.7 percent to 601.1 billion yuan ($91.5 billion). Not surprisingly, the news evoked certain "reasonable" response from the international community. Some even believe that the increase may lead to an arms race in Asia, and China seems to have become a new source for regional instability.

Whenever China increases its defense budget, some foreign observers use their imagination to misrepresent its national defense policy and strategic intentions, confusing international public opinion. The unfounded and deliberate misinformation is not worth responding to. But if some cases are not exposed, they could mislead the public.

The budget increase is timely and reasonable for modernizing Chinese forces and safeguarding the country's expanding national interests in the face of new challenges created by the changing international security environment.

The overall international security environment may be stable, but tensions still prevail in some areas, especially in Northeast Asia where the risk of military conflicts because of escalating tensions cannot be ruled out. China needs to strengthen its military to defend its national security and maintain regional peace and stability.

Non-traditional security threats are increasing, too. China has to build its military capability to protect marine routes from pirates in the waters off Somalia and participate in rescue and humanitarian operations in areas hit by natural disasters.

So far, China has sent eight escort fleets to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia. Operating fleets in distant seas costs China several times or even dozens of times more than that needed to patrol its coastal waters. As the trend shows, deploying escort fleets in the waters off Somalia may become a routine task for China, for which higher defense budgets are needed.

To rescue Chinese citizens from Libya, the government had to send military aircraft and warships. Expenses for such events have to come from the military budget, too. Such operations are more likely to increase in the future, for which more funds, more training for the armed forces and war preparedness are needed.

Besides, China needs higher defense budgets to enhance its military's capability to address diverse security challenges and threats, and update equipment and training exercises.

The government believes in the Scientific Outlook of Development and is paying greater attention to improving people's livelihood. As an important social component, People's Liberation Army (PLA) personnel also deserve a better life. In China's socialist market economy, the competition for talents is fierce. The authorities must continue to increase PLA personnel's welfare to attract more highly qualified people to the defense forces.

China's huge military expenditure is justified also because the PLA has been participating in rescue and relief operations in disaster-hit areas such as Wenchuan, Yushu and Zhouqu. Apart from sending troops and equipment the PLA also helps rebuild disaster-hit areas, contributing its share to the country's social and economic development. All this shows that China has enough reasons to increase its military spending.

So, why does the West overreact to even a modest increase in China's defense budget?

US President Barack Obama has proposed raising his country's military budget to $671 billion next year, more than nine times that of China or the combined military spending of about 20 countries. But no eyes are raised at the US.

The West views China with suspicion especially because quite a few developed countries have reduced their defense budgets in recent years. But it is be noted that the military strength of the Western powers has already reached the advanced level, which is far higher than their normal defense needs. The reduction of their military budgets is just a small fraction of what it should have been after the end of the Cold War. As for China, after more than 30 years of reform and opening-up, it has attained the economic basis to increase its military expenditure.

When the global financial crisis was sweeping across major developed countries, China's economy stayed strong. So, now policymakers in the West dread the prospect of being replaced and threatened by China. This unnecessary worry is preventing them from understanding China's objectives and actual needs.

Given the marked improvement in its economy, and scientific and technological development, China will continue to expedite its military modernization. But the world should know that China is and will always be consistent with its principle of peaceful rise and defense-based military strategy. It will never take advantage of its military strength or follow the "gunboat diplomacy" of some Western countries.

Chinese troops are engaged in United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world and escort Chinese merchant ships and those of UN affiliated organizations in the waters off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. They are thus contributing to world peace, prosperity and security, and pose no threat to any country.

China's economic rise has created tremendous development opportunities for the regional and global communities. Likewise, China's strong military will be devoted to peace, prosperity and stability across the world.

The author is a rear admiral and former director of the Institute for Strategic Studies of the People's Liberation Army National Defense University.

(China Daily 03/08/2011 page10)


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