China Boosts Defense Budget by 12%, Adding a Quarter of Japan’s in a Single Year
- As China’s “parliament” convenes for the 2nd session of the 12th NPC, the country is announcing another year of double-digit defense spending growth, with a budget up 12.2% to 802.2B yuan (about $131B). This growth rate is notable not just for its high level, but more importantly for its decorrelation from GDP growth. Up until recently, China could claim it was playing catch up with its military spending, thanks to a booming economy emerging from the medieval levels of poverty previously inflicted by Mao. But as of early 2014 GDP has officially been growing at about 7.7% for 7 quarters in a row, slightly below the 2012 growth level (7.8%) when the defense budget had increased by 10.7%.
- In other words, while its economic growth rate continues to cool down, China is increasing the relative growth rate of its defense budget, and it is doing so from a higher base, compounding the year/year growth in absolute terms. China is adding about $14B to its defense budget, or about a quarter of Japan’s total. China downplays this by pointing out dubious ratios such as defense spending/GDP, spending/capita, or even making land mass comparisons as if having strategic depth was a liability! Isn’t it convenient to be the world’s most populated country?
US Budget Hearings
- The congressional hearing marathon has begun, to grill officials from DoD and the services about the FY15 budget. The opening salvo from Senator Inhofe [R-OK, SASC ranking member] challenges tying a $26B wishlist to additional non-defense spending. China and Russia have been working overtime lately to help American defense hawks make the case that decreasing spending should be revisited. Senator McCain [R-AZ] then reveled in Pentagon officials having lapses of candor about the Administration’s pivot to Asia being choked for lack of appropriate sources. Senator Ayotte [R-NH] later focused on her favorite pet issue: the A-10.
Rift in the GCC
- UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, as these 3 countries resent Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere: Gulf News | Al Jazeera video.
US Ship Sailing to Black Sea
- A US warship was given permission by Turkey to traverse Bosphorus, en route to the Black Sea. It’s not known which ship, though it’s not a carrier.
- Meanwhile diplomats are spinning their wheels in Paris, and the EU is promising 11 billion euros to help Ukraine, or about the amount promised by Russia in its now moot bailout. With strong trade and energy ties with Russia, expect Europeans to heavily favor a negotiated outcome. Somehow, the situation in Ukraine has become President Obama’s problem.
- The US Department of State recently updated Australia’s end-use list [PDF] within its defence trade cooperation with the US. Lots going on, beyond biggies such as C-17s and Super Hornets.
- Today’s video shows British soldiers training Afghans on the art of artillery, between camels and curious motorcyclists passing by the range, oblivious to the risk they’re facing: