China to spend $225 billion on defense in 2023
China announced a rising 2023 defense budget on Sunday, amid mistrust from its Asian neighbors, the United States and now even NATO in the face of its growing power.< /strong>
The increase, the largest since 2019, will be 7.2%, a slight acceleration compared to last year (+7.1%), according to a report by the Ministry of Finance published during the annual session of Parliament .
China will spend 1,553.7 billion yuan ($225 billion) on defense. This makes it the second largest military budget in the world behind that of the United States – about three times higher.
Skepticism surrounds the Chinese figures, however.
“Much of its military research, such as missiles, cyber defense, etc. are not included in its military expenditure, but considered civilian research and development,” Niklas Swanström, director of the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm, told AFP.
The increase in the Chinese defense budget remains below 10% for the eighth consecutive year.
But it arouses the mistrust of neighboring countries with territorial disputes with China.
This is particularly the case for India (skirmishes sometimes break out along their disputed border in the Himalayas), Japan (for control of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands) and the Philippines (incidents regularly occur around the sovereignty of islands in the South China Sea).
Westerners also say they are worried.
Senior US officials have recently accused China of wanting to invade Taiwan, an island it claims, within a few years, or of having a “fleet” of military balloons spying on the whole world.
L 'People's Liberation Army, in figures
- It has a strength of 2,035,000 men and women;
- They are distributed particularly between the land (965,000), air (395,000) and maritime (260,000) forces or even the unit responsible for strategic missiles (120,000);
- China has approximately 350 nuclear warheads;
- China has three aircraft carriers, of which only two are currently operational. A third is currently being tested at sea;
- China has only one overseas military base (in Djibouti).
Even NATO, traditionally centered on Europe, has since last year considered the Asian giant as a “challenge” for the “interests of the countries of the Alliance.
China defends itself by presenting its army as purely “defensive” and stresses that it has only one military base abroad (in Djibouti) – against several hundred for the United States.
Furthermore, its military spending runs below 2% of its GDP, compared to about 3% for Washington.
But how does China use this money?
“It is used to increase troop salaries, finance better training conditions and obtain more advanced equipment,” said James Char, a Chinese army expert at Nanyang University of Technology in Singapore.
Furthermore, “China is investing in its ability to take control of Taiwan and keep the United States out of the region,” notes Niklas Swanström.
Military aircraft incursions in Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (Adiz) almost doubled last year as Beijing increased its pressure on the island.
China, for its part, denounces the sending by the United States of military ships and planes to the region to contest Chinese claims there and is concerned about the strengthening in recent months by Washington of its military cooperation with Australia, Japan , the Philippines and Taiwan.
“Northeast Asia is the scene of an arms race and the strengthening China is the driving force,” said Mr. Swanström.
Other countries in the region have thus increased their military budgets for 2023, such as South Korea (+4.4%) and the India (+13%).
Japan has just revised its defense doctrine and intends to double its defense budget to 2% of GDP by 2027, notably in response to China.
“China represents a challenge to the West and the international order as led by the United States” since the end of World War II, notes James Char.
“But militarily – at least in the short term and medium term – it is certain (it) is not willing to challenge Washington's status as the world's number one military power” and the Chinese military “will probably continue to conduct military operations below the threshold of war “, he underlines.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), the United States is the country with the highest military expenditure, with 801 billion $ in 2021, according to the latest figures available.
Next in order are China (293), India (76.6), the United Kingdom (68.4), Russia (65 ,9) and the Fra nce (56.6).