China's defense budget has always been a "hot topic" for discussion during the "annual sessions" of the top legislature and top advisory body, namely, the National People's Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and there is also no exception this year.
China's defense budget for 2007 is expected to hit 350.921 billion yuan (44.94 billion US dollars), 17.8 percent higher than that last year, said Jiang Enzhu, spokesman for the Fifth Session of the Tenth NPC, on March 4. This year's defense budget, he noted, accounts for 7.5 percent of China's budgeted fiscal expenditure, as against 7.7 percent in 2004, 7.3 percent in 2005 and 7.4 percent in 2006.
China's defense expenditure remains a low level as compared with the developed nations, either in its ratio to the total national revenue and expenditure, or in the ratio of per-capita defense spending to per-capita gross domestic product (GDP). As the world's most populous country, its absolute defense expenditure and per-capita defense spending are respectively less than one-tenth and one-200th of that in the United States.
Of the all relevant figures, the annual growth rate in defense budget is the only relatively-higher figure in China's defense expenditure, and this is taken as the sole item on which they can make random comments or irresponsible exaggerations. In fact, the base of China's present defense spending is very tiny. Even if the defense spending is to increase at the current rate, China will take a long period of time to approach the current levels of some developed nations. Moreover, these very nations will also go on expanding their defense expenditure at top speed when China would increase its defense spending.
Upon the mentioning of China's defense budget, critics overseas will habitually refer to the so-called "recessive military spending." As a matter of fact, any country, in drawing up its national expenditures, would thinks of its own specific national conditions and conventional practices. Take the United States, its spending for researches, production and maintenance of nuclear warheads is incorporated into the expenditure of its Department of Energy outside the category of defense budget. Furthermore, spending in military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq does not figure in the sphere of its military spending unexpectedly.
To delve into or analyze in a penetratingly way if a country is rational or not with its defense budget, the basic yardstick is to see where its military spending is used and what outcome it has effected. In a decade or so after the end of the cold war, a state of relatively peace and stability has been around its surrounding area, and China has been freed from any war or any military conflict with any nation. This iron-clad evidence alone has testified to the very truth that its defense budget is, in essence, an investment in peace. In a certain sense, China's fast economic development and huge profits other countries have reaped from the country are precisely the "dividends" acquired from its input in peace.
To date, China is still facing immense threats from secessionism, terrorism and global hegemonism nevertheless. So it is also vital and crucial for it to appropriately increase its defense spending for the sake of containing wars and safeguarding its stability and defending world peace. Though the amount of a country's defense budget deserves attention, the focus of the attention should on the issue of whether such input has been invested in peace or been paid for wars?
By People's Daily Online and its author Chen Hu, executive editor-in-chief of the "World Military Affairs Magazine"