China will increase defense spending by 7.2% this year, exceeding the government’s economic growth target after the Chinese Communist Party’s number two, Li Keqiang, called on the armed forces to increase combat readiness.
Following the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC) held on Sunday, March 5, one of the highlights was Premier Li Keqiang’s speech on increased military spending and China’s policy on Taiwan.
On defense spending, the increase in spending by 7.2% this year exceeds the economic growth target of around 5%, which is slightly below last year’s target because of domestic problems in the world’s second-largest economy.
The ¥1.55 trillion or US$224 billion in military spending in the national budget released Sunday is seen by governments in the region and the United States as a barometer of how aggressively the country will beef up its military.
This year’s increase marks the eighth consecutive single-digit increase, with 2021’s 6.8% and 2020s 6.6% growth.
As in previous years, the spending was not broken down, only the overall amount and rate of increase.
There is some doubt regarding the numbers made official by China in this budget.
Different international and military analysts have published that China significantly underestimates the official data on the military budget, and its actual volume could be 25-50% higher.
This is believed to be true as the published data does not include several essential elements such as the costs of strategic forces, defense scientific and technical developments, import of foreign weapons, the People’s Armed Police, and other paramilitary armed formations.
In his “Legislative Power” session opening report, Premier Li said military operations, capability development, and combat readiness must be “well coordinated to fulfill major tasks.”
“Our armed forces, with a focus on the goals for the centennial of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 2027, should work to carry out military operations, boost combat readiness and enhance military capabilities,” Li expounded at the opening of sessions of the 14th National People’s Congress.
In turn, the PLA aims to modernize its capabilities fully by 2035.
The CCP’s strategic intentions have raised concerns regionally and in the United States, especially as tensions have soared in recent years over Taiwan and disputes in the South China Sea.
In mid-February, the Kyodo news agency reported that the CCP intends to triple its nuclear arsenal and bring the number of nuclear warheads to 900 by 2035.
According to agency sources, Xi Jinping has already approved the nuclear capability development plan developed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
On the other hand, the Pentagon warned that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will expand to 400 ships by 2025, its current fleet being 340, according to estimates in the US Department of Defense’s annual China military report released in late February.
“The PLAN is an increasingly modern and flexible force that has focused on replacing its previous generations of platforms with limited capabilities in favor of larger, more modern multi-role combatants. […]”
“By the mid-2020s, China is likely to build the SHANG-class (Type 093B) nuclear-powered guided missile nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSGN).”
“[…] The PLAN’s capability to conduct missions beyond the First Island Chain is modest but grows as it gains more experience operating in distant waters and acquires larger and more advanced platforms,” the report reads.
Regarding Taiwan, Premier Li established some guidelines on what will be the main line of discourse on the small neighboring island.
In short, Beijing would be stepping up efforts to restore exchanges and economic ties with Taiwan while assuring that the CCP would take decisive measures to oppose Taiwan’s “independence” and that the People’s Republic of China, according to the premier, fights against separatism and resists outside interference.
Li declared that Beijing will adhere to the “one China” principle, promoting the peaceful development of relations between Taiwan and the PRC and the process of “peaceful reunification.”
Last year Li Keqiang, the previous premier, did not use the phrase “peaceful reunification” in expressing the report, so it would appear that the Chinese government is seeking to calm the tone of the dispute and offside the S. government’s narrative on the Taiwan issue.
With information from Derecha Diario