China Increases Defense Budget
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
China Increases Defense Budget
National People's Congress in China is in session. It began on Sunday 5th and scheduled to end on 14th. The forum is supposed to be the place to discuss and approve the core policies for the nation, whereas the track record show the event rather to be a ceremony merely to rubberstamp the reports and policies presented by the government.
During the last 27 years, the Chinese economy has grown at an astounding rate of 9.5 percent a year. But growing social unrest has precipitated mass protests and riots. The farmers and the agriculture sectors are in serious trouble. According to the Chinese government, the number of demonstrations and violent protests rose to 87,000 in 2005, a 10-fold increase over that of 1993. This means there are almost 240 such incidents every day.
In 2004, the average farmer had an income of about 800 yuan, roughly 100 US dollars, while a university graduate working in large cities can expect to earn more than ten times that. But as four-year university education costs 30,000 yuan, there is no way for the farmers to escape the fate of being trapped in the class of the oppressed.
Premier Wen Jiabao, in a speech in January, acknowledged one of the main causes of the rural unrest to be "illegal seizures of farmland without reasonable compensation and resettlement have provoked uprisings," effectively admitting, and accusing, corruption of local government officials.
Recently, a significant number of reports are coming out for rural China, of heavily polluted land and water due to contaminated waste discharged by the mining and refining industries. Farmers cannot receive even a basic level of basic health check because of the cost which could be afforded only by selling a pig or a cow. Detailed health examinations, such as to locate cancer, would cost a full-year's income for a farmer, and in reality the exercise is futile as there is simply no way to pay for the treatment if a disease is found. Out of the total population of 1.3 billion in China, more than half the people live in such poverty, and with severe health risks amplified by pollution.
At the National People's Congress, Premier Wen Jiabao announced a new policy focused to deal with problems in the agricultural sector. Increase spending on rural areas by 10 percent, reduction of taxes on agricultural products, abolishment of compulsory education fees, and introduction of health care system are reported to be on the agenda.
This is all good - good for the farmers and good for the country in realizing a sort of growth to benefit everyone that leads to a stable society with a hope of eventually establishing democracy.
What is not good, for the Chinese people as well as for the rest of the world, however, is the increase of military budget, by a whopping 14.7% over the previous year. Military (dubbed often as "defense") budget is an item viewed with ambiguity in any country's budget. Often various types of adjustments are applied so as to make the figure seem smaller in order not to raise eyebrows of other countries. But even without poking into the details, the 14.9% increase is outrageous especially considering that the double-digit increase has been continuing for eighteen consecutive years.
(Just to keep the records straight, Japan's defense budget has been decreasing for the past 9 years - to be precise, however, a 0.3% increase was observed once during the period on year-to-year basis.)
It is only natural to become skeptical as to from whom China wishes to "defend" (and what) -- or is it another step in the long and obscured strategy of eventually using the force somehow "actively"?
But whatever the true intention, it seems, in the mean time, the Chinese government must stick with the rustic but sometimes effective political tactic, of pointing at outsiders as villains to distract people's attention from own policy failures -- risking often counterproductive side effects.