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China's military budget increases.
March 4, 2008 8:27 PM   Subscribe

China has announced it will increase defence spending by 18% to 417.8bn yuan (US$59bn; £30bn) this year. The US Department of Defense estimates the true figure is at least double that (huge .pdf).

China spends less on defence, as a proportion of GDP, than the US, UK, France and Russia.

The US is concerned that China is developing weapons that would disable its enemies' space technology - such as satellites - in the event of a conflict (what, like this one?).
posted by wilful (44 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, that's around 10% of what the US spends, and yet it still seems obscene. How about that.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:36 PM on March 4, 2008


Now they can declare war on Bjork.
posted by Artw at 8:46 PM on March 4, 2008


Wilful: seriously? So what?

Factor out 11% GDP growth, and then count inflation, and it's almost stable. Aus will probably do that just coping with the legacy of Nelson's fuckups.

Also:

The US says it is concerned that China is developing weapons...

FTFY.

If they can't own space by spending more than everyone else in the rest of the world, perhaps they don't deserve space.
posted by pompomtom at 8:55 PM on March 4, 2008


I don't blame China, India is a worrisome neighbor.
posted by hortense at 8:56 PM on March 4, 2008


question:
If I dream of a world in which increased defense spending* doesn't increase a country's ability to exert power, am I dreaming of a world in which the terrorists win?

*(read: offense spending, no?)
posted by es_de_bah at 8:58 PM on March 4, 2008


es_de_bah: Call it 'war spending'.
posted by pompomtom at 9:04 PM on March 4, 2008


Wish they'd spend it on funding rural education instead. Although it's theoretically free, hidden top-up fees exclude lots of the poorest and particularly girls. There's plans this year to extend health insurance nationally, which is a more promising sign.
posted by Abiezer at 9:19 PM on March 4, 2008


This is no surprise, at least not to the defense establishment. The operative theory is that in the long run future, geopolitics will be focused on access to resources, rather than on access to markets which was the motivating factor in the immediate post-cold war period. The heavyweight architect of the Pentagon's China policy is Michael Pillsbury.

In brief, Pillsbury's view is that China is contextualizing its present economic and burgeoning military power and relationship with the US in terms of its ancient history, namely the Warring States Period. The multistate world then is analogous to the multi polar (US, Russia, EU, Japan, China) world of the future.

The problem that Pillsbury foresees for the Pentagon is that China will try to draw the US into regional conflicts over resources while it uses its exploding foreign currency reserves to establish economic influence over resource rich but political and economically unstable regimes. In other words, while the US appears to have locked up access to Middle Eastern and North and South American oil reserves, the future conflict will be fought over Africa. Hence the Bush administrations unprecedented outreach to African national on a variety of levels, not only economically, but for health care as well. The current administration wants to establish a precedent of the US strongly supporting Africa and trying to engage the rest of the world in Africa's problems (see Darfur), so that China will be viewed as the outsider by African nations, rather than the U.S.

China's current generation will have roughly 20 million more men than women. The general consensus is that China will integrate these men, for whom there are no women to marry or start families with, by absorbing them into the military. That becomes an overwhelming military force a generation from now.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:22 PM on March 4, 2008 [7 favorites]


"The problem that Pillsbury foresees for the Pentagon is that China will try to draw the US into regional conflicts over resources while it uses its exploding foreign currency reserves to establish economic influence over resource rich but political and economically unstable regimes."

Pfft. Shyeah right. Like we'd fall for...uh...that.
*loosens tie*
posted by Smedleyman at 9:25 PM on March 4, 2008


China will integrate these men, for whom there are no women to marry or start families with, by absorbing them into the military. That becomes an overwhelming military force a generation from now.

Has China developed military cloning? If not, I don't see how 20 million unmarried men in the current generation translate into anything in the next generation, much less an overwhelming military force.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:36 PM on March 4, 2008


If I were Taiwanese, I would not be quite so blasé about this.
posted by Dasein at 9:39 PM on March 4, 2008


b1tr0t - I think that the implication is that the leadership has 20 million dudes who can't get into a traditional relationship - ie., get laid and make kids.

How much frustrated energy would that be; would you rather have it explode on you or do you throw it at an enemy, hot-potato style?
posted by porpoise at 9:54 PM on March 4, 2008


What does that mean, huh? "China is here"? I don't even know what the hell that means!
posted by kirkaracha at 9:54 PM on March 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


The key paragraph to understand Pillsbury is this one.

"After decades spent nurturing contacts within China's military, Mr. Pillsbury has amassed mounds of Chinese-language military texts and interviewed their authors to get a grip on China's long-term military aims. His conclusion has rattled many in Washington: China sees the U.S. as a military rival."Mike's core insight has been to plumb the subterranean anti-American feelings within China's military," says Daniel Blumenthal, a China specialist at the Defense Department until late last year and now a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "He takes the Chinese at their word, and that has given him real influence within the Pentagon.'"

Of course Chinese military writers say that the US is a threat, that is the best way for their bosses to get more money, this does not mean that this is the actual stance of the goverment. Pillsbury has basically worked out a racket with his Chinese counterparts, were they both use each other to establish insider cred, and then feed each other the exact information needed to get their bosses in the pentagon or the PLA shiny new killing machines. I guarantee that there is some article floating around a private CCP newspaper which states that the US is a growing threat to China, and then sites Pillsbury as a source.

I don't believe that China is neccesarilly a benevolent actor. However at the moment the US could still overwhelm it if it attempted any offensive strikes. Also, not acting like complete dicks to the rest of the world would also help the US look better relative to China.
posted by afu at 10:03 PM on March 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


I imagine that the US and China will increasingly use each other as excuses for military spending, while privately their leaders will find ways to split up spheres of influence over a casual drink. Despite recent changes, their economies are too deeply linked for me to take any worries over China seriously.

(Except Taiwan, and who knows what will happen with that.)
posted by mazatec at 10:16 PM on March 4, 2008


I think the guerilla fighting in the mid-East, dating back to god knows when and exemplified by Russia's failure to win, pretty much moots any idea that conventional warfare is going to be much of a military strategy in the future. The very idea that the USA needs to defend itself is absurd: what citizen is going to meekly allow another nation to invade and rule the USA? Batshitinsane, that idea.

More diplomacy, less idiocy, that's what we need. Serious environment change is upon us, and we're going to need to get our shit together big time if we expect to pull through with any semblence of modern civilization. We either work together, or we end up nearly extinct, with only pockets of subsistence-level tribal survivors.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:39 PM on March 4, 2008


five fresh fish writes "More diplomacy, less idiocy, that's what we need."

Also, it would be nice if our diplomacy didn't involve selling weapons. One could argue that most of the suffering in the world stems from a dysfunctional approach to the 'guns or butter' problem.
posted by mullingitover at 11:21 PM on March 4, 2008


I long for a world that doesn't subsidize Tom Clancy.
posted by srboisvert at 12:22 AM on March 5, 2008


China's current generation will have roughly 20 million more men than women. The general consensus is that China will integrate these men, for whom there are no women to marry or start families with, by absorbing them into the military. That becomes an overwhelming military force a generation from now.

20 million out of about 1.32 billion. That's a very slight gender imbalance. In fact, it's about 49.984 female. In comparison, San Francisco County in California has a female ratio of 49.1%. Which means the gender imbalance is an order of magnitude smaller then it is in S.F.

People talk about the gender imbalance in china as if it were a coming apocalypse that is going to distort their society and bla bla bla. In my view, those people are not living in the real world at all. The gender imbalance is tiny and can easily be delt with by having Chinese men move abroad, plus (frankly) you're going to see a lot of unmarried loser guys too.

Plus, it's not like joining the military reduces libido or something. So I don't see how "dealing with them" by putting them in the military makes any sense at all.
posted by delmoi at 12:31 AM on March 5, 2008


Pillsbury seems to be over-selling his observation about the Warring States model there. Hardly surprising that you can find Chinese military authors who reference classical antecedents - there's plenty enough reference to the Greeks and Romans in the Western army academies. It would more more unusual if they did not, though I suspect the uptick in that kind of writing is also part and parcel of a general return to orthodox tradition now the era of high Maoist ideology is over and you're not so obliged to place things in a Marxist historical framework ot in the light of the Chairman's work on guerilla warfare.
posted by Abiezer at 1:14 AM on March 5, 2008


Pastabagel -- "...the future conflict will be fought over Africa."

Good point, but I'd add the future is closer than we think.

A previous job had me spending long periods of time on the ground in Africa and Chinese were all over the place. Lots of "businessmen" who we knew were fronts for government activities, mostly passive information gathering but sometimes you'd get a general feeling of more nefarious and active engagements (particularly when something went bad and someone, inevitably holding a diplo, was tossed into jail then expelled). And in some of the more remote regions, particularly along hot borders we'd run across military advisers.

Now there's nothing fundamentally wrong with The Chinese promoting trade down there, engaging in FDI; after all, the African people desperately need more opportunities to leverage off their own talents and strengths and natural resources. Anyone who has been to Africa, on even the briefest of visits knows of that continents enormous potential. And I like to think destiny. The 21st century should belong to Africa, after all the messing and mucking about we've done down there, its the least we owe those folks.

But my fear has always been given the abysmal human rights records of some of the despots down there, it will be pretty easy to cozy up to The Chinese, especially so when the US, EU and especially so the African Union are all pushing the other way.
posted by Mutant at 1:18 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mutant, your post reminds me of something I read a few days ago. The relevant part:

In February 2007, Hu Jintao proudly announced the creation of a new special economic zone complete with the usual combination of export subsidies, tax breaks and investments in roads, railways and shipping. However, this special economic zone was in the heart of Africa—in the copper-mining belt of Zambia. China is transplanting its growth model into the African continent by building a series of industrial hubs linked by rail, road and shipping lanes to the rest of the world. Zambia will be home to China's "metals hub," providing the People's Republic with copper, cobalt, diamonds, tin and uranium. The second zone will be in Mauritius, providing China with a "trading hub" that will give 40 Chinese businesses preferential access to the 20-member state common market of east and southern Africa stretching from Libya to Zimbabwe, as well as access to the Indian ocean and south Asian markets. The third zone—a "shipping hub"—will probably be in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam. Nigeria, Liberia and the Cape Verde islands are competing for two other slots. In the same way that eastern Europe was changed by a competition to join the EU, we could see Africa transformed by the competition to attract Chinese investment.

As it creates these zones, Beijing is embarking on a building spree, criss-crossing the African continent with new roads and railways—investing far more than the old colonial powers ever did. Moreover, China's presence is changing the rules of economic development. The IMF and the World Bank used to drive the fear of God into government officials and elected leaders, but today they struggle to be listened to even by the poorest countries of Africa. The IMF spent years negotiating a transparency agreement with the Angolan government only to be told hours before the deal was due to be signed, in March 2004, that the authorities in Luanda were no longer interested in the money: they had secured a $2bn soft loan from China. This tale has been repeated across the continent—from Chad to Nigeria, Sudan to Algeria, Ethiopia and Uganda to Zimbabwe.

posted by Makoto at 1:34 AM on March 5, 2008


Wish they'd spend it on funding rural education instead. Although it's theoretically free, hidden top-up fees exclude lots of the poorest and particularly girls. There's plans this year to extend health insurance nationally, which is a more promising sign.

Abiezer, are you talking about China or the US?
posted by Jakey at 1:45 AM on March 5, 2008


Miners at the Chambishi copper mine in Zambia are currently on strike, and managed to clock the manager (who is Chinese) with a rock in a ruckus yesterday, I read. H'away the lads.
I'd read a similar point about China's activities undermining attempts at enforcing trasnaprency in a paper linked here (scroll down to "Kaplinsky, R., McCormick, D. and Morris, M. (2006) 'The Impact of China on Sub Saharan Africa' (pdf 283kb)"). One other point they make is that the Chinese enterprises going in to Africa can operate on much longer time-frames as they are mostly state-owned or state-backed in some way, which helps realise the sort of larger strategic goals mentioned in Makoto's quote.
posted by Abiezer at 1:55 AM on March 5, 2008


People talk about the gender imbalance in china as if it were a coming apocalypse that is going to distort their society and bla bla bla.

Aside: thanks to traditional ways dying out too slowly and the availability of clandestine sex-selective abortion, there's a 10% or greater gender imbalance amongst elementary to high-school age children here in Korea, last time I saw figures for it. That's going to have some significant consequences, for Korea at least. Although the overall birth rate has sunk lower than pretty much anywhere else in the world, so there's that, too.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:58 AM on March 5, 2008


Jakey - that was about China. The central government has far more money now than ever, not just because the economy's expanding but also because they've finally got some sort of effective tax mechanisms in place. In fact the problem as I understand it now is it's been too successful in getting the cash to the centre and has left many regions with budget shortfalls, though I'm pretty out of date on that and could have it round my neck.
posted by Abiezer at 2:02 AM on March 5, 2008


I've read quite apocalyptic predictions about the gender imbalance thing - in the grim future of Hello Bachelor Boys there is only war (or disorder and crime at least). Men, eh?
posted by Abiezer at 2:05 AM on March 5, 2008


Yes, the successful 'one baby only' policy has led to many more boys than girls - surely a problem for China in the years ahead.
posted by doutzen at 2:51 AM on March 5, 2008


Long-range considerations aside -- and Pastabagel's comments above seem both insightful and true to me -- there's the simple fact that China shares a gigantic border with Russia, and Russia has been doing a lot of saber-rattling for the last couple years.

I think I'd be interested in more defense spending, too.
posted by Malor at 3:38 AM on March 5, 2008


His conclusion has rattled many in Washington: China sees the U.S. as a military rival.

Well, duh.

Of course Chinese American military writers say that the US China is a threat, that is the best way for their bosses to get more money...

As long as governments listen to their militaries' assessments of threats, those assessments are going to be self-fulfilling. Ike was right. Also, if the U.S. hadn't been acting like the global bully, there would be no need for all this escalation.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:00 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


On this map, red indicates more men than women, blue more women than men. If China paid those 20 million extra men (roughly equivalent to the entire population of Mozambique or Madagascar) to move to Africa and marry 20 million African women...
posted by pracowity at 4:58 AM on March 5, 2008


of course China sees the US as a threat. - I'm Australian and I see the US as a threat to the world.... they are the ones fuckign everything up for everyone else./ - Hopefully China will destroy the US.
posted by mary8nne at 6:14 AM on March 5, 2008


What an enlightened comment!
posted by sfts2 at 6:54 AM on March 5, 2008


I didn't realise the claim that China is going to integrate these 20 million excess men into the military was made seriously. If there is a consensus on that it's not one I'm aware of and the idea sounds frankly preposterous. It also flies in the face of ongoing PLA strategy to cease reliance on sheer weight of numbers and get up to speed technically and logistically
posted by Abiezer at 6:56 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Re the extra 20 million Chinese dudes: How much frustrated energy would that be; would you rather have it explode on you or do you throw it at an enemy, hot-potato style?

Sounds messy and sexy either way.
posted by papakwanz at 6:58 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I agree - the future is closer than we think and our initial skirmishes with China will occur in 3rd party states such as those on the African continent.

It is a zero sum game to some extent - we get the resources or the Chinese do. Swap in any other country's name over the last 5,000 years and rinse, wash, repeat...
posted by tgrundke at 7:06 AM on March 5, 2008


Some clarifications - the 20 million more men figure is between the ages of 0 and 5, so in one generation they will be 20-25 years old. The point of putting them in the military is that they are basically expendable. Otherwise you have 20 million pissed of men in city streets who could potentially cause trouble.

The situation becomes much much worse when you realize that Chinese agriculture is exceedingly primitive, relative to modern industrial farming techniques. Once China adopts the industrial agriculture model that dominates the rest of the world, farm productivity will skyrocket, which perversely means more farmers out of work as they are replaced by automation. An open question is whether China can absorb these people into its manufacturing and construction industries.

Next, the reason 20 million is problematic figure is that it is huge relative to US, European, Russian, and all other known military forces. China represent a problem that is quite literally an order of magnitude greater than anything the US military has faced before.

Pillsbury seems to be over-selling his observation about the Warring States model there. Hardly surprising that you can find Chinese military authors who reference classical antecedents - there's plenty enough reference to the Greeks and Romans in the Western army academies.

Pillsbury isn't the one drawing the analogy to the warring state period, it's the Chinese military leaders. And while there is a lot of tradition in Western military academies of studying ancient battles, no serious military study relies on historical analogy. Also, the U.S. military is routinely in the practice of having people within it come up with entirely difference and conflicting strategies. (Shinseki vs. Franks, etc). In fact the U.S. military in particular is all too conscious of the fact that they are organized to fight past wars, not future ones, so they make it a point to avoid relying on analogy and past precedent.

Of course Chinese military writers say that the US is a threat, that is the best way for their bosses to get more money, this does not mean that this is the actual stance of the goverment. Pillsbury has basically worked out a racket with his Chinese counterparts, were they both use each other to establish insider cred, and then feed each other the exact information needed to get their bosses in the pentagon or the PLA shiny new killing machines. I guarantee that there is some article floating around a private CCP newspaper which states that the US is a growing threat to China, and then sites Pillsbury as a source.

This is a very important observation, I think. It brings to mind Eisenhower's warning to beware the growing power of the military industrial complex. Perhaps like afu suggests, we are witnessing the globalization of that complex, and the unification of interests across national defense industries and in opposition to the political or economic interests of the states in which they operate. Maybe. Pillsbury is something of an enigma, but he's also not really beholden to that complex of interests the way someone like Cheney or Perle might be, so I'm not sure.

On the other hand, it is worth remembering that one of the foundational principles of the U.S. defense policy was uttered in 1798 by then Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Robert Harper, in response to French requests to pay a bribe for the release of seized American ships: "Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute."
posted by Pastabagel at 7:20 AM on March 5, 2008


Pastabagel - there's already an estimated 200 million under- or unemployed people in the countryside, yet this has been the case all through a period of reduction in the size of China's armed forces.
I'm well aware it was the Chinese writers who were drawing the analogy with the Warring States period, my point is I don't think it's as remarkable or notable as Pillsbury claims. Far likelier to be a function of the different way arguments get presented in China. It would be facile to assume that awareness of historical parallels means China is actually basing its global strategy on a millennial old situation. In matters of praxis the regime has shown itself to be technocratic and pragmatic in the post-Mao era and I can't see that being swapped for some form of glorified historical re-enactment.
posted by Abiezer at 9:12 AM on March 5, 2008


Plus, it's not like joining the military reduces libido or something. So I don't see how "dealing with them" by putting them in the military makes any sense at all.

The military doesn't reduce libido, but it does provide new outlets for its release.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:56 AM on March 5, 2008


"Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute."

Right on.
posted by 1 at 12:24 PM on March 5, 2008


What does the U.S. really need from Africa that would be worth fighting over? The U.S. isn't a major manufacturing country any more so, I don't see why it would try to fight over resources beyond oil, which Africa already sells to us. It's not like China and the U.S. are going to get into a fight over who gets to sell Chinese made iphones in Africa.
posted by afu at 9:14 PM on March 5, 2008


Pastabagel - In fact the U.S. military in particular is all too conscious of the fact that they are organized to fight past wars, not future ones, so they make it a point to avoid relying on analogy and past precedent.

Iraq?

LIke I said, it's not unimaginable that the Chinese leadership knows that there is a sex imbalance in their borders. These people are likely to cause unrest. What the hell to do with them?

Having a war of attrition or a bloody but popular war will 'correct' this problem. There might even be spoils out of spending those lives. It's an attractive solution; the question is how long the Chinese leadership's planning is for. Short term = war, longer term...

That gender ratio map? The countries where there are more women then men; how long have civil wars raged and what percentage of the populace are HIV+?
posted by porpoise at 9:45 PM on March 5, 2008


Just because Bush doesn't have the braincells to understand that old military tactics won't work against guerilla wars and terrorist cells doesn't mean the military is as daft. And at any rate, surely those who are dedicated military commanders understand quite clearly by now that there's been a fundamental shift in successful strategies.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:07 PM on March 5, 2008


You know, everything I've read says that the Chinese military has been going towards a smaller, more modern force, so it's a little puzzling that people are bandying around a figure of 20 million.

Even if China does put 20 million people in uniform, where exactly is China going to fight this war? Africa? How does China put 20 million people into Africa and keep them supplied? If China could do that, Taiwan would have been invaded a long time ago.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:38 AM on March 6, 2008


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