26 Oct 05. The FT reported that Chinese military spending is more than double the level the country admits to publicly and is growing rapidly, a defence think-tank said on Tuesday.
In its yearly assessment of global military power, the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies estimated that China spent $62.5bn on defence last year, compared with the government’s official figure of $25bn.
The report follows warnings by Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, in China last week that the US and other countries are concerned about a perceived lack of transparency surrounding the Chinese military budget.
The IISS has not yet calculated what it believes Chinese military spending will be this year, but the Pentagon estimates that it could be as much as $90bn, three times the official Chinese defence budget of $30.2bn.
Speaking alongside Mr Rumsfeld at the Chinese defence ministry last week, General Cao Gangchuan, the defence minister, dismissed suggestions that Beijing was ramping up its military defence spending by more than the official figures. He conceded, however, that the budget did not include some expenditures such as the Chinese space programme.
In contrast, the IISS said its own much higher assessment included fundamental parts of defence budgets such as research and development, weapons procurement, military pensions and some nuclear costs. It estimated the Chinese defence budget had grown about 10 per cent in each of the past 10 years.
Tim Huxley, senior fellow for Asia-Pacific security at the IISS, said: “It has become more and more apparent that the official figures do not reflect reality, especially if you look at capabilities the Chinese are developing such as long-range missiles, rapid global deployment and Russian combat aircraft. There is no way you could pay for a fraction of this if the official figures were accurate.”
Separately, the IISS on Tuesday said the US would need to retain a sizeable force in Iraq after George W. Bush, US president, has left office. It said US plans to shift the task of combating Iraq’s insurgency to the country’s own army had not borne fruit, while rebels were showing resilience.
“The next US administration will have forces in Iraq and a fairly large number for some years to come,” said Patrick Cronin, IISS director of studies.
He said US troop withdrawals next year were likely to be incremental and that it would take “five years at least” for Iraq to generate the 300,000 strong army it needed to fight the insurgency on its own. He said in such circumstances the US would need to maintain a substantial part of its 150,000 force, even though private security contractors were playing an increasingly important role in Iraq.