05 March 2015

China’s Military Spending Swells Again Despite Domestic Headwinds

Andrew S. Erickson and Adam P. Liff, “China’s Military Spending Swells Again Despite Domestic Headwinds,” China Real Time Report (中国实时报), Wall Street Journal, 5 March 2015.

China’s defense budget is set to jump 10.1% to $141.5 billion in 2015, the 26th year of nominal double-digit increases since 1989. The problem: We don’t know (enough about) how it’s being spent.

China raised its official 2015 defense budget 10.1% to 886.9 billion yuan ($141.5 billion), the government announced Thursday on the opening day of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress. Though the real-world impact of these increases is heavily contingent on the pace of China’s often volatile inflation, this year’s People’s Liberation Army budget marks the 26th year of nominal double-digit increases since 1989. …

China’s state media complain that Western media drum up artificial concern over the country’s military budget increases, but without more transparency overseas concerns about China’s military transparency and the intentions behind it are sure to continue. These concerns are sincere and legitimate on both specific and abstract grounds. Though Party leaders have long judged that low military transparency serves China’s strategic interests, the continuation of this practice exacerbates mistrust, uncertainty about the future, and frictions over more concrete areas of tension that exist regardless, especially in the disputed East and South China Seas.

In short, Beijing’s limited transparency does everyone with an interest in Asia-Pacific stability—including itself—a major disservice. As China’s Ministry of Finance stated in its report, “we need to make progress across the board in releasing budgets.”

Further analysis:

Andrew S. Erickson and Adam P. Liff, “The Budget This Time: Taking the Measure of China’s Defense Spending,” ASAN Forum 2.2 (March-April 2014).

China’s Military Spending: At the Double,” The Economist, 15 March 2014.

Edward Wong, “China Announces 12.2% Increase in Military Budget,” New York Times, 5 March 2014.

Andrew S. Erickson and Adam P. Liff, “Full Steam Ahead: China’s Ever-Increasing Military Budget,” China Real Time Report (中国实时报), Wall Street Journal, 5 March 2014.

Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s Near-Seas Challenges,” The National Interest 129 (January-February 2014): 60-66.

Andrew S. Erickson, “Testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission,” Panel II: “Inputs to China’s Military Modernization,” “China’s Military Modernization and its Implications for the United States” hearing, Washington, DC, 30 January 2014.

Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s Naval Modernization: Implications and Recommendations,” Testimony before the House Armed Services CommitteeSeapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, “U.S. Asia-Pacific Strategic Considerations Related to PLA Naval Forces” hearing, Washington, DC, 11 December 2013. Click here for oral statement.

Adam P. Liff and Andrew S. Erickson, “Demystifying China’s Defence Spending: Less Mysterious in the Aggregate,”The China Quarterly 216 (December 2013): 805-30.

Nathaniel Austin, “Lifting the Shroud on China’s Defense Spending: Trends, Drivers, and Implications—An Interview with Andrew S. Erickson and Adam P. Liff,” Policy Q&A, National Bureau of Asian Research, 16 May 2013.

Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s Defense Budget: A Richer Nation Builds a Stronger Army,” Inaugural Presentation in “China Reality Check” Speaker Series, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington, DC, 8 April 2012.

Andrew S. Erickson and Adam P. Liff, “China’s Military Development, Beyond the Numbers,” The Diplomat, 12 March 2013.

Andrew S. Erickson and Adam P. Liff, “A Player, but No Superpower,” Foreign Policy, 7 March 2013.
 
Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s Military Budget Bump: What it Means,” China Real Time Report (中国实时报), Wall Street Journal, 5 March 2013.