China’s National Defense Policy Is Defensive in Nature


By staff reporter ZHOU LIN


NATIONAL defense expenditure empowers the armed forces to guard the lives of each citizen and maintain the nation’s security and development. The military budgets of major countries indeed have impact on the world order as a whole. It is therefore unsurprising that China’s annual defense budget draws global attention.


Spokesperson for the National People’s Congress (NPC) Fu Ying announced at a press conference on March 4, during the annual “two sessions” of the NPC and CPPCC, that China’s national defense budget in 2017 would increase to approximately RMB 1 trillion (US $145 billion), a year-on-year rise of about 7 percent.


 We include in this month’s China Today the following interview with Qian Lihua, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and former director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Ministry of National Defense. He spoke with our reporter about China’s national defense expenditure and elaborated the role of the Chinese armed forces in safeguarding national security and maintaining world peace.


Small Proportion of China’s GDP


While talking about the increase in China’s national defense expenditure, Qian Lihua clarified his explanation with relative statistics from 2010 through to the present. National defense expenditure rose 7.5 percent in 2010, and maintained double-digit growth for five consecutive years from 2011 to 2015. In 2016 and 2017, however, those figures reverted to single digits. In 2016, China’s national defense expenditure totaled RMB 954.354 billion, with 7.6 percent growth year on year. In 2017, the further seven percent increase will bring this amount to RMB 1 trillion. These statistics show that the 2017 increase in national defense expenditure is the lowest since 2010.


“Do more with less” is China’s fundamental principle, in expectations that both military and economic benefits might be maximized. Qian Lihua explained the great importance that China always attaches to appropriate national defense expenditure. The country insists on coordinated development between national defense and the economy, controlling the scale of expenditure, and maintaining a moderate annual increase in line with the demands of national defense and military reforms.


To clarify China’s military expenditure scale, Qian Lihua compared the world’s two largest economies – the United States and China. The U.S. national defense budget was US $597 billion in 2016, and in 2017 it rose to US $618.7 billion. President Trump even plans to add a further US $54 billion dollars to the military budget in 2018 – a 9.3 percent increase. When considering what percentage of a country’s GDP is taken up by national defense expenditure, statistics show that China’s military budget usually accounts for about 1.3 or 1.5 percent, while that of the United States is generally 3.4 percent. China’s military expenditure per capita is also substantially lower than that of the United States.



Qian Lihua noted that national defense expenditure is determined in accordance with the country’s security strategies and national defense policies. The U.S. aims to build a military force which can implement its global security strategies and be deployed abroad. China’s military, however, focuses on safeguarding the country’s sovereignty, security and national interest, and development, so upholding a national defense policy that is purely defensive in nature. Despite the increases in the current budget and areas to which military investment is allocated, China’s national defense expenditure remains committed to its defense policy.


Transparent National Defense Expenditure


As regards allocations from this large sum, Qian Lihua explained that, in line with the “White Paper on China’s National Defense in 2010,” China’s expenditure is in the three main areas of personnel, training and maintenance, and equipment.


Currently, as national defense and military reforms strengthen, China has set down adjustments to its military expenditure in five aspects. They are:


First, give priority to national defense and military reforms, to ensure that the adjustments to and systematic optimization of the armed forces are in place. Second, scale up the research and development budgets for main equipment and for the upgrading of military equipment. Third, allocate budgets for military training and education, in a bid to cultivate new-type high-caliber military personnel. Fourth, improve the conditions for readiness training and for the life and work of military personnel. Last but not least, incline towards such fields as civil-military integration, national defense mobilization, and construction of the rear areas.


China holds a military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War on September 3, 2016.

China’s national defense expenditures are allocated beyond the military field, a practice distinctive from other countries but in line with the country’s status quo.


Qian Lihua stressed that the Chinese army is always a firm force for safeguarding world peace. China has unswervingly adhered to a national defense policy which is inherently defensive, and combined it with an active defensive military strategy. Its strategic intentions and capability building are open and transparent.


The Chinese government, in compliance with the National Defense Law and the Budget Law, includes all spending relative to national defense in the budget, which it then submits to the National People’s Congress for approval.


The Chinese armed forces have expanded their extent of information transparency, so displaying their confidence and openness. In recent years the forces have made information available to the public via the media, military and academic institutes, regular press conferences, and monthly updates on army building. The Ministry of National Defense publishes the White Paper every two years, and releases the latest news in The PLA Daily, the Ministry of National Defense website, the military network, and related government websites.


Since 2007, the Chinese government has submitted its annual military expenditure to the UN. This practice reflects the country’s proactive interest and participation in the affairs of the international community. By publishing its national defense expenditure, China can display to the world its national defense policy and the development of its armed forces.


Commitment to International Peacekeeping


The report of the 18th CPC National Congress proposed that the Chinese army continue to strengthen military cooperation with other countries, enhance mutual military trust, participate in regional and international security affairs, and exert a positive influence on international politics and security.


China has been proactive in maintaining peace in the international community. In the light of UN resolutions, China sent squads of peacekeeping troops overseas. Since 1990, Qian Lihua said, over 30,000 peacekeepers have been deployed in more than 10 nations. At present, 2,600-plus soldiers are still on missions in Africa and the Middle East. Since December 2008, China has dispatched 24 navy fleets to escort as many as 6,900 domestic and foreign commercial vessels within the Gulf of Aden and Somalian waters.


The participation of China’s armed forces in these international military tasks underlines the country’s resolution to enhance the transparency of Chinese troops, and to make the world better understand China, its armed forces, and military reforms.