China sees this further budget increase as “reasonable” and “appropriate” when it comes to protecting its national security and sovereignty. Zhang Yesui, the spokesman for this legislation, stated that should not be seen as a threat to other states, declaring that “whether a country poses a military threat to other countries depends on its foreign and defence policies, rather than how much its defence spending increases.”
However, this has not been the reaction from China’s neighbouring countries. In fact, China’s budget increase has been a classic exemplar of the security dilemma. The security dilemma was a term coined by scholar John Herz which describes how one state’s attempt to increase their military capacity tends to force countries around them to follow suit due to feeling a threat. Rather than creating a sense of security, increase military spending creates more tension and hostility in the region. In fact, China’s own need for more and more military spending is a manifestation of the security dilemma. Vice President of the United States Mike Pence stated that “China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the Western Pacific and attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies.” The same idea was echoed on the other side by Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie who said that China has faced challenges in its region and has seen an increase in military presence by the United States and other countries. Therefore, China has felt compelled to protect themselves by increasing their own arms.
This insecurity is a result of the ongoing territorial disputes in the South East China Sea between China and its neighbouring countries like Japan, Philippines, and Vietnam. Although no armed conflict has erupted in the region, the atmosphere remains tense and China’s navy has been regularly patrolling the area to assert their presence. This action is strongly condemned by the United States, an ally of Japan who states that China’s claim to the sea in that region directly violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which clearly outlines that countries only have sovereignty over waters 3 nautical miles off its coastline.
Ironically, last Sunday, the Rear Admiral He Kue a delegate from the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference said of China, “We are a peace-loving military.” However, this budget increase directly goes against his claim, clearly increasing hostility and not peace. Instead, China would be better off spending its money on improving their economy. There has been a lot of coverage of China’s slowing economy and the potential economic effect this will have in their domestic and international markets. Therefore, instead of focusing its spending on its military, China’s energy and financial resources should be focusing on improving its economic structures. Not only would this remove the national security threat emanating from other states, but this can also remove pressure from the economy as well.