The rising superpower of the People’s Republic of China pledges more funds towards building its military capability as its interests in East Asia come more clearly into focus. With North Korea, Taiwan, and the South China Sea all on its plate, the need for China to build projective naval capability as well as concomitant land forces is of greater importance now than ever in the PRC’s history.
Chinese officials report that their military budget will be increased by 11.2% for 2012, raising its total to above $100 billion U.S. This is part of a decades long trend that sees the communist power second only to the United States in terms of military expenditures. China of course has more than territorial integrity and economic sovereignty to tackle: in addition to these concerns, China’s military is in the midst of a major overhaul and upgrade of its dated military technology. Projects now underway include an aircraft carrier, a stealth fighter jet, and land-based anti-satellite missiles.
The United States, already a major player in East Asia, spends roughly $740 billion U.S. on its annual military budget, maintaining a large number of bases and troops across the region. Chinese officials fear encirclement and because of its long-standing territorial disputes with Vietnam, the Philipines, and Japan, in addition to the festering issue of Taiwan, Chinese paranoia is not totally unwarranted. Li Zhaoxing, an official from the Supreme People’s National Assembly (the PRC’s parliament) says that “China is devoted to the path of peaceful development and follows a national defense policy that is defensive in nature.”
As the BBC points out, China’s military expenditures per capita are lower than either the United States or the United Kingdom’s. Experts, however, disagree with this figure and argue that China’s military expenditures are larger than what is reported. The People’s Liberation Army, the largest in the world, fields over two million personnel.