China will increase its defense budget by around 7 percent in the fiscal year of 2017, and overall military spending will account for about 1.3 percent of GDP, according to the press conference held on March 4 in the lead-up to the 5th Session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC).
Major General Chen Zhou, a senior researcher at the Academy of Military Science of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) made an in-depth analysis on China's defense and military reform in a group interview in Beijing on March 4. Chen is also a deputy of the 12th NPC.
Chen explained that the increase in defense spending is based on the country's economic conditions and national defense requirements.
"The defense fees will be used to support national defense and military reforms as well as accelerating the upgrading of military equipment. In the meantime, a large proportion of the budget will be devoted to improving the training and living conditions of local-level troops and cultivating high-caliber military officers. Lastly, the spending will be used to support the integration of the military and civilian [technologies]," said Chen.
He explained that China's military was traditionally land-based and human-intensive with a defensive nature. China needs to strengthen other aspects of the army in the context of enhancing military reform, the country's changing security situation and the evolving forms of war. Construction of the navy, air force, rocket force and strategic support force should be overhauled by channeling defense spending toward them. Meanwhile, land force should be reduced and old and outdated defense equipment should be phased out.
The next step
So far, China has launched structural reform in military leadership and the commanding mechanism, gaining a breakthrough on progress. As for the direction of the next steps, Chen told Beijing Review that China will set about reforming the scale and structure of military forces, trimming the number of army troops and strengthening the navy, air force and strategic forces.
"A major challenge for military reform might be to alter its mindset," he stressed. Chen explained that the current military system has been working for three decades. It performed well in the past, but now, it has to be upgraded because of the changing situation.
China must seek innovation to adapt to the needs of time and defense development. "This year marks the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the PLA. We have the confidence to fulfill military reform," Chen said.
The PLA's contribution to international peace
"China's growing global status and influence require it to shoulder more international responsibilities and obligations, and the military is an indispensable part," Chen noted. He said that China has taken an active part in the UN's peacekeeping operations since 1990 and the number of the country's peacekeeping soldiers has reached 35,000 at present.
China contributes more troops to United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions than any other permanent member of the UN Security Council. It has also participated in escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and the Somali waters, having sent 25 fleets to escort over 6,000 vessels, over half of which are foreign. Moreover, China has taken part in security cooperation in anti-terrorism and humanitarian aid.
"I believe the Chinese military will better perform its international obligations to make a greater contribution to world peace and development," Chen added.
This article is reposted from Beijing Review.