Chinese president, XI Jingping kicks-off his tour of the United States and although it is quite a monumental occasion, the Chinese would definitely be sitting with the comfort that their leader arrives in North America on a much more stronger footing than his predecessors enjoyed during their state visits.
With a GDP growth rate that is more than 9.5% from the past two decades, China has started flexing its muscles and is not a true economic giant. The 21st century has seen China change from a would-be superpower to an actual superpower. Due to such a healthy economy, China can now afford to increase its military spending in a manner that was probably not on the cards a couple of decades ago when it was still integrating with the rest of the world.
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China’s military spending
The economic power it yields now, allows China to adapt military spending policies that are not going to have any detrimental effect over the economy in the long term. A naval fleet that was in sheer decadence a few decades ago, has gone from strength to strength which is why Beijing can now afford to adopt a very firm stand on the issue that is the South China Sea.
Keeping in view its Strings on a Pearls policy, it was only a matter of time when China would close the gap between itself and United States as the primal military giant.
The turn of the new millennia saw US wage several wars out of its own territory which after a period of time, started having a serious effect over its economy. Notions such as the world’s economic hub and a military leader are now being discarded as we speak with neither the US economy nor its military might showing the omnipotence that it once did. It appears that cyclic wars have started taking a toll on the country with new competitors led by China looking to stamp their authority in the military arena without really firing a single bullet.
Back in 2009, the Congress moved heaven and earth in a bid to cut down the country’s defensive budget which was all the opportunity China ever needed in order to get a clear route towards the lofty heights of military superiority.
Slashing down the budget significantly has hit the military defense and research institutes really hard with technological advancements for the aid of a soldier in the battlefield not being as shiny as they once used to be. Slowly but surely, China is easing its way into the front of the line and with the way it has spent money on shoring up its arsenal, it should not worry about another competitor scratching the surface anytime soon.
One of the main reasons why the military gap between USA and China is closing so fast is the fact that Chinese policies allow the intertwining of civilian science and technology sectors with its military in a rather liberal fashion just so that the country gets a competitive advantage and tactical edge over any potential foe.
For a long time, China has been more concerned about taking care of internal threats rather than traversing many a leagues in order to aggressively pursue its agenda.
By the numbers
Back in 2014, China left US way behind as the world’s number 1 market for surveillance equipment and technology. In 2011, when the Arab Spring was threatening to change the shape of the region, China spiked up its spending on internal security by more than 13 percent to 624.4 billion yuan ($95 billion), which was more than the budget for the Chinese Liberation Army that had risen by 12.7 percent to 6010-1 billion yuan. In many ways, China has focused quite a lot in recent times on militarizing its police, something that remains a vital are of the country’s security strategy. While United States has braced itself for what seems to be a perpetual state of war abroad, China is looking to ensure that its internal issues are well-policed first above anything else.
Nonetheless, it has not stopped Beijing from lending a helping hand to countries that have been unable to acquire the latest advancements in technology for various reasons. For instance, China has played a big part in Pakistan’s latest drone program and over the past few years has signed numerous agreements with the country’s air force which is a part of the grander scheme of things as Beijing aims to establish its sphere of influence in South Asia.
In terms of aerial prowess, China is really taking the fight to Washington. At present, the aviation industry has experienced quite a boom with 800 modern fighters ready to challenge any foe on the globe.
In 2015, China increased its defense budget by 10.1 percent to $145 billion which makes it the second biggest military spender in the world. In 1997, the budget was just $10 billion which clearly shows that the ascension has not been a stroke of sheer luck.
If there is one country that has made full use of its abundant population, it is China. A huge population could be a real headache for any nation but China has maximized from its ever-growing population. The government encourages educational sector to spend more on advanced engineering and the research and development centers in various universities work in close collaboration with the industry which has turned into a symbiotic relationship that both sides are profiting from. The industry has the capital while a research and development institute has the ability to keep producing scientists and engineers whose skill-set allows them to play a crucial role in the technological advancement of the industry. Today, China is one of the leading nations in the world in Aerospace engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering and Space Sciences which has allowed Beijing to aggressively pursue targets it has set for its strategic organizations.
With so much experience in the aforementioned fields already, China is now playing a major role in helping other nations in its vicinity acquire the same skill-set through various defense contracts and industrial linkages. This perfect integration from internal to external has played a big part in the rapid growth Chinese military industry has experienced in the last ten years.
After being very successful in pursuing their military modernization program just like Russia, China has closed the technology gap with the United States. And although US military still enjoys a few technological advantages over China, if the two were to clash any time in the future, it would not be because of China’s active military policy but because of recent profligacy Washington has showcased in terms of consolidating its military might in recent years.