BY NANCY MACDONALD • Unease over China’s growing military might deepened last Sunday when Beijing announced the largest spike in military spending in five years, two months after successfully testing its first anti-satellite missile. Of the 18 per cent increase, the largest portion will go toward manpower expenses: increasing the professionalization of the 2.3-million strong People’s Liberation Army, and making the military competitive with the civilian sector for top talents, says James Mulvenon, of the Washington-based Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis. But a significant portion of the US$45-billion budget will be spent on modernization, says Chen Li, a China scholar with the Brookings Institution; until Beijing began reforming its massive military in the mid-1990s, it was considered a lowquality, rather primitive fighting force.
The slated technological upgrades, in missile systems, electronic warfare and other high-tech items, will mostly be domestically generated, according to Wade Huntley of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia. Militaryrelated sales to China have been severely restricted by the U.S. since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, but while Beijing has often relied on Russia for advanced weaponry like cruise missiles and jet fighters, improvements in China’s defence sector have enabled it to begin producing an “astonishing” range of advanced weapons systems, says Mulvenon. While China remains 25 to 30 years behind U.S. military capabilities, the old cliché about a backward, outdated Chinese defence industry is no longer accurate.
China has always wanted to be seen as a great nation. Already, it has emerged as a powerhouse in the new global economy. Now Beijing wants to increase its standing in the global military rankings, too—to the consternation of others. M
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