BEIJING, March 5 -- Chinese authorities on Wednesday announced the fastest yearly growth in the country's defense budget in three years.
According to a budget report submitted to the national legislature for review, China's military expenditure will grow by 12.2 percent to 808.2 billion yuan (about 132 billion U.S. dollars) in 2014.
The figure will most certainly draw ire from the West.
In recent years, China's rising military prowess has attracted increasing attention worldwide, with some claiming an ever-growing China could be seeking "dominance" that might undermine stability in Asia.
But critics of China's defense policies are looking at the wrong country in their search for the source of regional instability.
Although China's defense budget has been growing at a steady pace over the past four years, military experts have said the country's military spending is still far from the level it needs to be, as the country faces increasingly severe security challenges.
According to Chen Zhou, a researcher with the Academy of Military Sciences and a national lawmaker, China is currently under mounting strategic pressure, as the Asia-Pacific region has become a global geo-political and economic center, with some major powers "speeding up strategic adjustments and strengthening military alliances."
Facing rising maritime security tensions, territorial disputes and terrorist threats, China's military expenditure is indeed moderate in scale and in line with the country's economic and security conditions.
In addition, China's military spending is still dwarfed by that of major world powers, both in terms of its share in GDP and per capita.
A report released by London's International Institute for Strategic Studies showed the United States remained the world's biggest defense spender in 2013, with a budget of 600.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2013. The figure was close to five times as much as that of China in the same year.
Meanwhile, the share of national defense spending in China's GDP stood at less than 1.5 percent last year, well below the world average of 3 percent.
In per-capita terms, China's military spending is equal to less than five percent of that of the United States. Even Japan could easily overshadow China in this regard.
Although China boasts a territory some 26 times as large as Japan's and a population nine times larger than the latter country, its per-capita spending in national defense represents only about 20 percent of Japan's.
In fact, if one is to seriously look for a cause for alarm in Asia, one should fix a gaze on Tokyo, where a nationalistic prime minister has turned his administration into a regional troublemaker.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Fu Ying, spokeswoman for the second session of the National People's Congress, said a country's military power should be viewed in terms of its policy trends, rather than mere figures.
China has stated repeatedly over the years that the country is on a path of peaceful development and its defense policies are purely defensive in nature.
Increasing military expenditure by no means implies any change here.
China is a responsible player in maintaining regional peace and security, but just as Fu said on Tuesday, "peace can only be maintained by strength."
It is not good news for world peace and stability if a country as large as China is unable to protect itself, which is the underlying logic for China's growing military spend.