A top military official and member of China’s top consultative body says the United States has no right to criticise China’s defence spending as America’s own budget dwarfs that of the world’s No 2 economy.
Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, told the Southern Metropolis Daily that the US spends six times more than China on defence.
China’s defence budget last year was 720 billion yuan (HK$911 billion), second only to the US, and grew at an average rate of 10 per cent per year over the past three years.
The official, who is sitting at the ongoing CPPCC meetings in Beijing, was apparently reacting to criticisms against the increasing military might of China, which is seen as a growing threat to US dominance and to Asian countries’ territorial claims in the region.
Yin had previously reacted to reports that China would outspend the US by 2030, saying China was following the path of peaceful development.
He said in the Daily report that China’s military spending had declined over the past 25 years and only started recovering after the year 2000.
“Our military spending as a proportion of total GDP is low compared with other countries,” Yin said. “For this kind of recovery growth, 10 per cent is not high.”
The funds went mostly towards housing and improving troops’ living conditions.
Since the launch of the 12th Five-Year Plan in 2011, Yin said military spending ranged from 1.4 per cent to 1.6 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product.
“As a developing country, about 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent would be more appropriate,” he said.
Yin said that the US defence budget, meanwhile, always ranged from 4.2 per cent to 4.8 per cent of its GDP, and even reaching 5.2 per cent for a time.
The latest World Bank figures  – which take into account spending for military, paramilitary and civil defence – support Yin’s claim that China’s military spending, as a percentage of GDP, has been declining. However the World Bank data shows it is at the level that Yin says is appropriate – dropping from 2.2 in 2009 to 2.0 in 2012.
US defence spending has been contracting as well, from 4.6 to 4.2 over the same period, according to the figures.
“Its [America's] total GDP is twice ours, so its military spending is more than six times ours,” he said. “What qualifications does it have to criticise China’s military spending for being too high?”
According to the research group Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, America’s US$645.7 defence budget – which includes funds for the Pentagon, nuclear programmes and operations in Afghanistan – is double that of all Asian countries combined. It also accounts for 41 per cent of total global military spending.
Yin said at this year’s CPPCC meeting that he would propose reforming the Chinese military’s research and development system for defence technology, which he described as too “utilitarian”, adding that young researchers would be sacked if they did not write a thesis or win awards within the first three or four years of their career.