1709624740 China continues to increase its military budget

China continues to increase its military budget

Gen. Zhang Youxia, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, during the opening session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, March 5, 2024. Gen. Zhang Youxia, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, during the opening session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, March 5, 2024. ANDY WONG / AP

China's Ministry of Finance confirmed on Tuesday, March 5, during the annual session of Parliament, a 7.2% increase in the military budget for 2024, an identical rate of increase to last year. Beijing plans to spend 1,665.5 billion yuan – or about 214 billion euros – on military spending, which is still more than three times less than the United States' spending in this area.

The Middle Kingdom is committed to “appropriate growth” in its military budget to “preserve its sovereignty, security and development interests,” Lou Qinjian, speaker of the parliament, said on Monday.

This budget has been increasing for several decades, generally in line with economic growth. China said on Tuesday it is aiming to increase its gross domestic product (GDP) by around 5% in 2024, one of its most modest targets in decades but which undoubtedly remains difficult to achieve as the second global economy has struggled to revive since the Covid-19 years.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), the country spends 1.6% of its GDP on its army, much less than the United States (3.5%) or Russia (4.1%).


However, China's military rise is viewed with suspicion by the United States, Japan and the Philippines – a country with which China competes for control of islands in the South China Sea. The Philippine Coast Guard also said one of its vessels was damaged in a collision with a Chinese Coast Guard boat during a resupply mission on Tuesday. China's coast guard said it had taken “control measures” after Philippine vessels “encroached” near a disputed reef in the South China Sea.

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The growth of China's military is also raising fears in Taiwan, an island of 23 million that China wants to “reunify” with its territory. Beijing on Tuesday reiterated its opposition to any independence for Taiwan, which is supported militarily by the United States.

“We strongly oppose separatist activities aimed at Taiwan independence and foreign interference,” said a statement consulted by Agence France-Presse (AFP) and published almost two months after the election of President Lai Ching-te in Taiwan Government Activities Report. who considers the island to be de facto independent.

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Skirmishes sometimes break out between China and India along their disputed border in the Himalayas.

Nuclear warheads

For its part, Beijing says it is concerned about military alliances concluded by its regional rivals with the United States or even the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which now poses this as a “challenge” to the “interests” of its members.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said again in January that China was “getting closer to us”: “We see it in Africa, we see it in the Arctic, we see it trying to control critical infrastructure.” »

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In this context, in 2023, China notably “significantly increased the number of its nuclear warheads,” James Char, an expert on the Chinese army at Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), told AFP. According to Sipri, Beijing had 410 nuclear warheads in 2023 (+60 in a year), far behind Washington (3,708) and Moscow (4,489). “The recent corruption scandals in the army nevertheless raise doubts about the effectiveness of its missile force and the professionalism of the armed forces,” Adam Ni, editor-in-chief of China Neican, told AFP in a Chinese news briefing.

Suspicion of corruption in the army

China changed its defense minister twice last year. Former minister Wei Fenghe, who has been retired since March 2023, no longer appears in public, as does his successor Li Shangfu, who was fired without explanation in October after a few months.

Other high-ranking military personnel, particularly from the Army's nuclear missile division, were dismissed. When asked about these unrest in August, the Defense Ministry did not officially confirm that it was corruption, but promised to “take action against any corrupt official.”

Corruption “must be fought” so that the army “can hope to achieve the goal.” [président] Xi Jinping, who is set to replace the American armed forces as the world's leading military power,” Mr. Char noted.

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But Washington remains far ahead for now. According to Sipri, the USA is the country with the highest military spending, with $877 billion (around €808 billion) in 2022, according to the latest figures available. Followed by China, Russia ($86.4 billion), India (81.4), Saudi Arabia (75), the United Kingdom (68.5), Germany (55.8) and France (53.6). ).

In addition, the US has “a global presence and networks of alliances that China cannot have in the short term,” recalls Adam Ni. Washington has hundreds of military bases abroad, while Beijing only has one, in Djibouti.

“Given the inadequacies of the Chinese army (…), it seems logical that Beijing has neither the means nor the will to enter into a conflict with Washington or launch an invasion (…) of Taiwan,” notes James Char. “However, what remains a concern is friction [avec] the other armies in the region, which may spiral out of control and escalate into open conflict. »

The world with AFP

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