China is set to double its defense budget in the coming years from $123 billion in 2010 to $233 billion by 2020.
The 2020 defense budget is a 60 percent jump from 2015’s $146 billion, according to a report by IHS Jane’s, a British publishing company that focuses on military information.
The increased budget is due, in part, to continuing territorial disputes in the South China Sea that recently saw the “unlawful seizure” of a U.S. Navy underwater drone and military installations on artificial islands in the sea, the Shanghaiist reported.
“A key trend in [the Asia-Pacific region] is the shift from a traditional focus on territorial defense towards power projection,” principal analyst at IHS Jane’s Craig Caffrey told CNN. “This is new for the region and is likely to increase military-to-military contact between states.”
In 2015, Chinese military spending only went up 7.6 percent, while 2010 saw a 7.5 percent increase, which were very different from the usual double-digit increases in the past couple of years.
The dip in China’s defense spending was determined by national economic situation and defense needs, explained Fu Ying, a spokeswoman for the National People’s Congress.
Some experts agree that the reduced military spending is due to lowered Gross Domestic Product growth. But others like Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, says China’s main priority is its people over military, choosing to spend money on social welfare programs instead.
“Now is not the correct time to dramatically increase the military budget,” Canrong opined.
Even with fewer resources, Ying said the People’s Liberation Army is looking at a “military reform” by downsizing its army while upgrading equipment and technology at the same time.
In comparison, Western powers such as the U.S. upped its defense spending with nearly $597 billion, almost as much as the next 14 highest spending countries put together.
According to 2016 International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Military Balance report, however, new technologies mean that the West, particularly the U.S., is losing its technological edge.
“Access to military-relevant high technologies is growing and this leveling of the technological playing field presents governments with a challenge not just to keep pace with the latest technology and monitor its proliferation but also cope with the blurred boundaries between civil and military technologies and offensive and defensive military systems,” John Chipman, director general and chief executive of IISS, told the Washington Post.
He added: “Western military technological superiority, a core assumption of the past two decades, is eroding.”