China targets Washington’s ‘Asia pivot’ with 10 per cent military spending hike

March 04, 2015 05:40 pm | Updated 05:40 pm IST - BEIJING

Aiming to counter the “pivot to Asia” doctrine of the United States, China is set to raise its defence budget by 10 per cent to help fortify its submarine-based military deterrent and advance the development of stealth fighter jets.

Parliament spokesperson Fu Ying told a news conference on Wednesday that, “Compared with great powers, the road of China's defence modernisation is more difficult.” She added: “We have to rely on ourselves for most of our military equipment and research and development." Ms. Fu made these remarks ahead of the start on Thursday, of a session of National People’s Congress, China’s parliament.

Its adversaries, including the strategic community in the United States, have criticised China for its high military spending, which stood at $130 billion in 2014. But Chinese authorities point out that their defence spending is nearly four-and-a–half times lower than Washington’s 2014 military expenditure of $581 billion dollars.

Analysts point out that China is beefing up its nuclear and conventional deterrence to counter the “Asia Pivot” of the United States — a military doctrine of the Obama administration, which visualises that the U.S. Pacific Command would deploy 60 per cent the country’s armed forces.

In response to the U.S. military build-up on its periphery, China is focusing on establishing a stable nuclear deterrent, based on a string of atomic-powered submarines that will impart Beijing a “second strike” capability.

China’s JIN class of submarines has mounted JL-2 nuclear missiles with a range of 7,350 kilometres. A Russian military website points out that China’s second strike capability is also being reinforced with the development of the 11,000-kilometre range missiles, which will be mounted on the 096 Tang class nuclear submarines.

Aware of China’s growing heft in the submarine arena, the U.S. has begun to fly its most advanced surveillance aircraft - the P-8A Poseidon- out of the Philippines for patrolling the South China Sea, Reuters reported.

China is also trying to neutralise the U.S. advantage in aircraft carriers — the key to Washington’s control over sea lanes funnelling into the Malacca straits — by developing anti-ship missiles, including the 1500-km range DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile.

Though a latecomer in the field, China appears inclined to add to its current inventory of a single aircraft carrier. The latest budget is also expected to address China’s “command and control” shortcomings by developing cyber and satellite capabilities.

In the military aircraft domain, China appears to be working overtime to develop the J-20 stealth aircraft, which had conducted its maiden test flight in 2011.

At the presser, Ms. Fu said that “fundamentally speaking, China's defence policy is defensive in nature,” in tune with the Chinese Constitution. She asserted that, “We will not easily change this direction and principle."

The defence budget is likely to address the terror threat that Beijing faces from militants in the far western region of Xinjiang. China is currently drafting a new anti-terror law that will create a legal framework for a pro-active military response to counter-terrorism.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had earlier called for “a resolute strike on secession, infiltration and sabotage by hostile forces within and outside China”.

Mr. Xi has described Kashgar in the Xinjiang province as “the front line in anti-terrorism and maintaining social stability".

Xinjiang, the hub that connects China with Central Asia is central to Mr. Xi’s plans for establishing the Silk Road Economic Belt, premised on the integration of economies along the Eurasian landmass, with China and Russia as its two anchors.

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