China military

China’s military needs budget increase of 20pc, says general

More funding needed to cover modernisation drive and challenges in the South and East China seas, according to Wang Hongguang

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 March, 2016, 11:45pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 March, 2016, 11:45pm

The People’s Liberation Army needs its budget to grow 20 per cent this year to cover its modernisation and challenges in the South and East China seas, a ­senior military official says.

Lieutenant General Wang Hongguang, former deputy commander of Nanjing Military Command, said the army needed hundreds of billions of yuan to cover retirement pay and redundancy compensation for 300,000 personnel who are to lose their jobs in the modernisation drive.

“There are more than 200,000 officials and non-commissioned officers among the 300,000 to be laid-off, all of whom need to find jobs for themselves because it’s impossible for local governments to [provide so many jobs],” Wang said on the sidelines of the ­Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference on Thursday.

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He said each person laid off in the cuts, announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September, needed to be paid 500,000 yuan (US$76,280 or HK$593,000), in addition to housing allowances.

The modernisation drive has also regrouped the PLA’s seven military commands, including Wang’s former area command of Nanjing, into five theatre commands.

Wang said the new system required all personnel to learn the Western concept of C4ISR – computerised command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

“It’s a totally new system that we need to catch up with. Training, computers ... all need money,” Wang said, adding the PLA would upgrade to “third generation” weapons by 2020.

“But so far many of our troops are still using outdated second generation weapons, while some [advanced equipment] just plays a role as display.

“More defence spending is [needed] to turn the PLA into a real modern army that matches China’s status as a great power.

“The US has 11 aircraft carrier groups, but so far China has only one carrier – the Liaoning – which is only for training.”

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Wang said Washington’s pledge to increase operations in the South China Sea would push China to increase its buildup in the area. The US says China has deployed fighter jets, bombers and surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island in the South China Sea in recent weeks.

The navy also appears to be upgrading its capabilities in the East China Sea, where China is in a dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands.

PLA personnel had a pay rise in January and senior officials were considering further increases to celebrate the anniversary of the PLA’s formation on August 1. These would need to be approved by the National People’s Congress, which meets tomorrow.

The PLA’s budget increased 10.1 per cent last year to 886.9 billion yuan. The US defence budget was US$597 billion that year.