Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Increase in military budget justified

By Lu Yin (China Daily) Updated: 2014-03-17 07:39

The massive search launched for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has proved how important it is for China to upgrade its military. China had to deploy four warships, four coast guard vessels and far from its coasts to search for Flight MH370, which went off the radars after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing after midnight on March 8. The Chinese media have described the deployment as the largest Chinese rescue fleet ever assembled.

Seen in this light, the 12.2 percent increase in China's military spending for 2014 is not huge. The draft budget report submitted to the National People's Congress (or the national legislature) for review says the defense expenditure should be increased 12.2 percent to 808.2 billion yuan ($131.4 billion) this year.

The growth in China's defense budget should be seen as a "compensatory" rise. After the reform and opening-up was launched in the late 1970s, most of China's limited resources were pressed into economic construction while defense expenditure fell for more than 10 years.

Reform and opening-up helped China register a high and steady economic growth rate which remarkably improved people's living standards. But the under-spending delayed the upgrade of China's military. As a result, there appeared a "generation gap" between the militaries of some advanced countries and China.

China has been trying to coordinate national defense upgrade and economic growth to make the country prosperous and its military an efficient force. Based on economics data, China's military spending has not harmed its economic growth. Instead, it has contributed to projects that have improved people's livelihoods and promoted economic growth by improving infrastructure, expediting the development of science and technology, boosting domestic demand and training talents.

Despite a double-digit growth in China's defense budget over the past few years, the expenditure is considerably low both in terms of its share in GDP and as part of fiscal expenditure. China is the world's second-largest economy, but its defense expenditure is less than 1.4 percent of its GDP, lower than the global average. Therefore, a moderate increase in defense spending is not only conducive to, but also necessary for economic growth. In fact, there is still room for a moderate increase in the future.

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