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Beijingfuturesdreams, 2008

Sunday, July 6, 2008

China Trend Analysis I : Military Development in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)

Part I: Popular United States views of China’s Military

As the largest military force in the modern world, the United States keeps a wary eye on the quickly developing military & defense agenda of the PRC. Thus, the first part of our investigation into the apparent trends in China’s growing military power will rely heavily on U.S.-led studies into the pace, alignment, and focus of said growth. This article will present a summary of a number of opinions and forecasts as drawn from the U.S. Congress, the RAND Corporation, U.S. National Security Agency documents, among others.

China’s military development over the past 15 years has been as rapid and determined as its economic growth. In fact, the expanded military budget of the PRC closely follows the same trend curve as the nation’s rising GDP index. Though many of the actual figures surrounding defense spending in the PRC are not realized, the data under analysis is based on inferred costs and known purchases by the PRC. From the early 1990’s onwards, the PRC has recorded an annual overall economic growth of approximately 10%. During the same years, military spending has also increased by 10% per year, and stands at around $USD 140 billion for the year of 2008.

These distinctly paralleled figures lead to a number of questions concerning the course that China will follow during in the coming years. Firstly, what will the response be in defensive budgeting due to any abnormalities in economic growth by the PRC? Secondly, to what extent is the military power being amassed by the PRC intended to protect its economic growth trend, and to what means will that protection extend itself? Thirdly, to what degrees is the economic growth contingent on the sphere of military influence the PRC is able to exert?

In answer to the first question, expert opinion in the United States of America seems to revolve around the idea that any divergences in economic growth will result in system wide changes, inclusive of military budgeting. Military Power of the People’s Republic of China, an analysis prepared by the Office of the Secretary of Defense for the U.S. Congress, states that other economic pressures may play a role in the continued funding for China’s military development. These factors include aging population trends, urbanization of the populous, health-care costs and social welfare programs, and under performing bank loans.

This publication also begins to address the PRC military development strategies in regards to resource allocation. It further offers analysis of official policy concerning the deployment and use of military strength to secure China’s national interests. As the world’s largest consumer of grain, coal, steel, and meat, and second only to the United States in oil consumption, China has on of the most robust and diverse economies of the world. Secure shipping lanes, access to natural resources, and peaceful relations with neighboring nations are among the top priorities to military policy makers. These factors have guided the development of strategic bases across from Taiwan, the building of a modern naval power to police the Straits of Malacca and South China Sea, and continual territorial negotiations with India, Bhutan, and other nations.

In address to the last of these questions, U.S. analysts generally conclude that China is still a growing military power, though a quickly advancing one. As a result of this status, it is generally perceived that China’s military has yet to reach the capacity necessary to carry out long-term military engagements from a distance. However, as China fortifies its ability to protect its territorial claims, and secure its geographic position against outside influence, it has recently begun embarking on a number of technological acquisitions enabling long range engagements. Its push to “informatize” its military policy includes strategies aimed at causing disjunction in the logistics, communications, and other vital networks to opposing forces.

To better understand these assessments please refer to the
Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2008,
Forecasting China’s Military Spending through 2025, and
Chinese Responses to U.S. Military Transformation and Implications for the Department of Defense.

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