Funds cover army training, equipment update and salaries

Updated: 2012-03-09 07:59

By Defense Budget (China Daily)

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Editor's note: There's no better time to raise questions than the NPC/CPPCC sessions, which bring together China's top policymakers. China Daily asks experts from different countries what they wish they could ask the members and delegates about topical issues. Reporter Wu Jiao gathers the answers.

David Fouquet, a specialist on China's foreign and security relations and policies with the European Institute for Asian Studies in Brussels, would like to ask what are the trends of China's spending on the military budget.

China's increases in military spending in recent years have aroused the attention of both researchers and foreign countries.

The defense budget mainly covers the army's training, maintenance, equipment and salaries, said Li Zhaoxing, spokesman of the ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress.

Chinese army insiders said that the increased spending is used mainly to raise the living standard of servicemen and women amid inflation, upgrade outdated armaments and meet the increasing need to safeguard expanding overseas interests.

Lieutenant General Kong Ying, a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee member, said the additional funds go first to the soldiers, who received meager pay in the past few decades.

Because of two major pay rises, in 2006 and 2009, they now have a higher income, better educational opportunities and welfare services.

Kong said China also raised its defense spending in part to advance its military reform and modernization, especially in the information age.

Cai Fengzhen, former deputy chief of the general staff of the Air Force, said the main reason for the budget increases is because the military's tasks have expanded.

"Did the military have anti-terror responsibilities in the past?" asked Cai, who is also a CPPCC National Committee member.

Cai said the budget increases also finance updating armament and equipment that lagged far behind those in developed economies.

Cai said that despite the increases, China's military budget is still smaller than that of many other countries.

Yin Zhuo, a retired navy rear admiral and a CPPCC National Committee member, said China's military needs to be in step with the growing need of protecting the country's expanding overseas business interests, especially maritime interests.

China's total overseas investment will exceed $1 trillion by 2020, and the nation has to import many strategically important materials, but its ability to protect maritime logistics is far from adequate, Yin said. "So we have to catch up."

Compared with the enormous length of the nation's borders and coastline, military spending is not enough to meet the demands, Yin said.

He also said the rise in defense spending in recent years is a consequence of the very slow pace of defense spending increases from 1970s to 1990s, which left the defense sector underdeveloped.

Yin also pointed out that China's military budget has to cover pensions and aerospace expense, while these costs are funded by other sources in the United States.

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Zhang Haizhou contributed to this story.

(China Daily 03/09/2012 page6)