The recent announcement by China’s official news agency Xinhua that the People’s Republic has cut its two-million-strong land forces by half in order to boost spending on its Navy, Air Force, rocket force and cyber warfare capabilities, is confirmation of processes in the pipeline.
Between 2007 and 2016, the Chinese military budget grew by 8.5 per cent annually on average, after taking inflation into account, about four times the increase in the Indian budget on defence, and in 2016 reached $144 billion. This may be far less than the US defence budget of over $300 billion per annum, but Chinese defence spending also tends to be camouflaged under other heads.
The nature of the armed forces began to be altered with Deng Xiao Ping’s “four modernisations” in which the military featured prominently. Under President Xi Jinping, the second phase of technology infusion into the military has been evident for some time.
This is an integral part of China’s vision of itself, which foresees an outgoing maritime force backed by advanced air, rocketry and cyberspace war capabilities. China has acquired military bases at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and the Gwadar port in Pakistan, and has been creating artificial islands from reefs in the Indo-Pacific to house its military aircraft. In June 2017, the US defense department’s annual report on China noted that Beijing was going all out to take steps “to secure China’s status as a great power”.
India has been scaling up in response to the twin threats posed by the China-Pakistan nexus, but faster modernisation is needed without entering an arms race....