24 April 2014

China Army Targets Students for Officers to Match Weapons

Henry Sanderson, “China Army Targets Students for Officers to Match Weapons,” Bloomberg News, 24 April 2014.

China’s military has used annual budget increases in excess of 10 percent to buy precision-guided weapons, fighter jets and an aircraft carrier. Now it’s seeking to upgrade its recruits to operate them.

For Wu, a 20-year-old journalism student at a university in Beijing, that means his college fees are paid and he has an extra 3,500 yuan ($561) a year to live on. Wu, who asked to be identified only by his surname because he’s forbidden from speaking publicly, takes extra lessons on war strategy alongside regular classes. He’ll join the People’s Liberation Army as a trainee officer when he graduates in 2016.

“In the past our weapons were quite primitive so you didn’t need too much knowledge,” Wu said, sitting in a cafe on a campus in the capital. “You just used a gun and that was OK. Now there’s a need for better quality people.”

China is following the example of the U.S. Reserve Officers’ Training Corps by increasing incentives for bright minds to serve in the armed forces. President Xi Jinping, the head of the Central Military Commission, has made an army that’s better prepared for combat a priority as China becomes more assertive in regional territorial disputes. China plans to fold developers of military hardware into listed state-owned companies, people familiar with the matter said this week, giving them access to capital markets as it prioritizes high-technology defense capability. …

“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army are not Boy Scouts with red-tasseled spears,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters last month in Beijing, in response to a question on China’s rising military spending and capacity.

The central government is boosting defense spending 12.2 percent this year to $808.2 billion yuan ($129.6 billion). The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency says such official amounts are artificially low, with real expenditure estimated to have reached $240 billion last year. The Pentagon proposed a budget for the coming fiscal year of $495.6 billion and to reduce the Army’s personnel by 6 percent by 2015.

While China’s military spending has roughly kept pace with economic growth in recent years, the 2.3 million-strong PLA must keep up with rising wages in the civilian sector. That’s likely to make things more expensive for the PLA, though there isn’t enough data to estimate how much, said Andrew Erickson, an associate professor in the Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College. …

Further reading:

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.