On Sunday, China announced a 7.2 percent increase in its defense budget for the coming year. This announcement came amidst the ongoing tensions between China and Taiwan, with many Western media outlets immediately hyping up the defense budget increase and linking it to these tensions. However, taking an objective look at the growth in the defense budget and the demands of military modernization, it is clear that the scaremongering by the Western media proves baseless.
Recent data show that the defense budgets of many countries have been continuously increasing despite national and global economic slowdowns. In fact, the total global military expenditure for 2023 signifies the building of a “warfare economy” which some countries use to mint profits. For example, the United States unveiled a defense budget of $857.9 billion for 2023, an increase of a record 13.9 percent. Not only does the US have the highest defense budget in the world (more than the combined total of several countries), but the US has also vowed to provide at least $800 million in security aid to Ukraine, as well as other aid, including $6.5 billion for the US costs of sending troops and weapons to Eastern Europe and equipping allied forces so they can defeat Russia.
Similarly, Japan has raised its military expenditure by 26.3 percent to a record high of 6.3 trillion yen ($49.84 billion). Last year, the Japanese government set a goal of doubling the defense budget’s share of the GDP to 2 percent by 2027, not least because it plans to spend a record amount of money on US-made Tomahawk cruise missiles to increase its strike capability.
Even European Union member states have also joined the arms race by raising their defense budgets, with the US urging NATO countries with relatively small military budgets to substantially increase their defense budget. For instance, the French government has approved a military budget of more than €43.9 billion ($42.8 billion), up 7.4 percent year-on-year. The German government has set up a €100-billion defense fund to meet NATO’s target of spending 2 percent of GDP. Many other European countries have also increased their defense budgets, with the United Kingdom planning to double its defense budget by 2030 so that it accounts for 3 percent of GDP. Overall, all major military powers have raised their military budgets for 2023 by quite a high margin.
In particular, the US has increased its defense budget in order to corner Russia and to check China’s rise. On the other hand, China has had to increase its 2023 defense budget so it can better cope with the changing international and regional situations and deal with any emergencies. Considering the development of China’s military has been disproportionally lower than the size of its economy and growing international clout, the single-digit increase is very low.
It is worth noting that during the defense spending cuts in the 1980s, China reduced its defense budget to the minimum to maintain the basic living expenses of the army. Therefore, China is still improving the welfare of its military personnel. China’s military spending last year was still less than 2 percent of its GDP. In contrast, the US’ humungous defense budget and its proportion to the country’s GDP dispel the myth of China’s “high” defense expenditure posing a threat to the world.
Despite the fact that China’s defense expenditure is the second-highest in the world and is on par with the size of its economy, many foreign media have resorted to a double standard of claiming that Western countries’ swelling defense budgets are to defend against potential threats while any increase in China’s defense budget is to challenge the leadership of the US in the Asia-Pacific region. Some even link the increase in Beijing’s military budget to the Taiwan question