New Delhi: China declared its official draft defence budget 2023, which would increase the annual defence budget to 1.5537 trillion yuan or US $224.79 billion, an increase of 7.2 percent, a straight eighth successive year increase.
China’s defence budget grew 7.1 percent last year to 1.45 trillion yuan.
Many international organisations, including the most credible Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), believe that China’s actual volume may be 25 to 50 percent higher and may not necessarily be officially budgeted.
According to the analysts, the published data does not include important expenditures like expanses on strategic forces, defence research and development, import of foreign weapons, People’s Armed Police (internal troops analogue) and other paramilitary units.
Also, it does not include provincial government spending on military expenditures or the Space force that China is building in a big way. Beijing had made significant progress in developing military space technology, including in areas such as satellite communications and reusable spacecraft. China is also developing experimental technology aimed at mining asteroids and minor planets for natural resources.
The Global Times, a Chinese newspaper, said, “It is part of the country’s efforts to meet the need of modernising its national defence to safeguard national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and development interests facing external threats and instabilities.”
The draft defence budget growth was made public in a budget report issued at the opening of the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s top legislature, on Sunday.
The Defence growth rate was 6.6 percent in 2020, 6.8 percent in 2021 and 7.1 percent in 2022.
China’s GDP growth rate in 2022 was 3 percent, and China has set its GDP growth target at about 5 percent for 2023.
The Global Times newspaper quoting Xinhua News, said, “China is aiming to achieve the centenary goals of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by 2027, basically realise the modernisation of national defence and the armed forces by 2035, and fully build the armed forces into world-class forces by the mid-21st century, which marks the 95th anniversary of the PLA.”
In 2023, the PLA is expected to commission more advanced warplanes, including J-20 stealth fighter jets and J-16 multirole fighter jets, when legacy J-7 fighter jets are being decommissioned and conduct sea trials for the country’s third aircraft carrier, the electromagnetic catapult-equipped Fujian.
Chinese newspapers said, “The significance of national defence modernization has become due to the deteriorating global security situation over the past year, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict and US-China tensions over Taiwan, which saw a series of large-scale military exercises last year.”
The Military Budget of several countries is increasing post Ukraine -Russia conflict. Post Ukraine-Russia conflict, several countries worldwide are on military spending sprees in 2023, with the US topping the list with an USD 817 billion budget for the Pentagon, more than three times that of China.
Japan planned a USD 51 billion defence budget, which is 26.3 percent higher than the previous year.
Equally, European countries too are increasing their defence budget.
The QUAD – United States, Japan, Australia, and India will closely monitor China’s defence budget increase.
According to SIPRI, the total global military expenditure increased by 0.7 percent in real terms in 2021 to reach USD 2113 billion. In 2023, the total global spending must have further enhanced. The five largest spenders in 2021 were the United States, China, India, the United Kingdom and Russia, accounting for 62 percent of expenditure.
In December 2022, Japan increased its most significant military build-up since World War Two with USD 320 billion, which would increase Japan’s missiles capable of striking China and ready it for sustained conflict, as neighbourhood tensions of China-Taiwan and ongoing Russia’s Ukraine conflict stoked war fears.
Based on current budgets, Japan is the world’s third-biggest military spender after the United States and China. Japan worries that Russia has set a precedent to encourage China to attack Taiwan, threatening nearby Japanese islands, disrupting supplies of advanced semiconductors, and putting a potential stranglehold on sea-lanes supplying Middle East oil.
Meanwhile, North Korea continues to increase its nuclear arsenals and is building a fleet of “super large” mobile rocket launchers that could hit any point in the South with a nuclear warhead.
The South Korea Institute for Défense Analyses (KIDA) said Kim’s plan could manifest into 300 weapons in the coming years. That is a frog leap from 2022 when SIPRI estimated it had 20 assembled nuclear weapons and enough fissile material to make up to 55.
Beijing has threatened to seize the island by force while the US has warned China not to think of venturing into Taiwan.
Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng warned that Taiwan must be alert this year for the Chinese military attempts to enter areas close to its territory. China has recently stepped up its military activities around Taiwan, including intermittent Air Force incursions into the island’s air defence identification zone.
China observers say that China is just looking for an excuse to attack Taiwan and just taking precautions as presently the United States’ active response favouring Taiwan acts as a caveat.