Xi's first defense budget may hint at future
By Christopher Bodeen ,APBEIJING -- Newly installed Chinese leader Xi Jinping faces a key test of his campaign to end corruption and reduce extravagance when outlays for the politically influential military are announced Tuesday after two decades of whopping defense budget increases.
March 5, 2013, 12:35 am TWN
The opening of the national legislature's annual session, and the release of the coming year's military spending, will provide an indication of how Xi and his cohort of new leaders are consolidating power three months into office. With its deep roots in the Communist Party and heavy representation in the legislature, the military always looms large in that political calculus.
The legislature's spokeswoman defended booming military spending Monday, saying the vast investment has contributed to global peace and stability, though she did not announce the coming year's percentage increase, as usually has been done on the eve the legislature's opening.
Following years of double-digit increases, the amount of this year's increase will be a barometer of the complicated relationship between the party leadership and the military. A big boost would show Xi wants robust backing for the People's Liberation Army at a time when China has strident territorial disputes with neighbors and wants to reduce U.S. influence in the region. A smaller increase would show that Xi feels he has strong military backing without the need to pander to its recent demands for ever-larger outlays.
Growth in the military budget should match or exceed last year's rate, if only to keep up with rising inflation, said Ni Lexiong, a military expert at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. However, he said recent prohibitions on lavish entertainment and perks such as luxury cars should ensure a larger chunk of spending goes to training and weapons development.
“Of course, military development and research in science and technology also require a larger budget, but the growth of military spending must be stable,” he said.