China has called for two most paradoxical approaches to deal with its faultlines. On the one hand, China said that its military spending would rise at the fastest pace in four years, warning of “escalating” threats from abroad at a meeting of its rubber-stamp parliament that will hand Xi Jinping a third term as President.
On the contrary, outgoing Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the government should promote the peaceful development of relations with Taiwan and advance the process of China’s “peaceful reunification” but also take resolute steps to oppose Taiwan’s Independence. One thing is certain that the two incidents are quite ironic. Is China preparing for an offensive approach if things don’t go its way?
Sharp rise in Chinese defence budget vs ‘Peaceful’ reunification with Taiwan
China hiked its defence budget by 7.2 per cent, marginally higher than last year, to 1.55 trillion yuan (about USD 225 billion), marking the eighth consecutive year it has announced a single-digit percentage point increase in its military budget.
China, last year, pegged its defence budget at 1.45 trillion yuan, a 7.1 per cent increase. This year the defence spending is increased to 1.55 trillion yuan.
Beijing also announced a lower-than-expected growth target of “around 5 per cent” for the year, as the National People’s Congress (NPC), or Parliament, convened for its annual session in the capital. China is ignoring its inner faultlines, overlooking its domestic and economic cleavages.
Experts have stated that China’s defence spending still pales in comparison with the United States, which has allotted over $800 billion for its military this year. But analysts have said Beijing spends much more money than the officially announced sums. Has this raised a few eyebrows? No, it is hardly surprising. Predictably, China defended its increased military spending as reasonable.
From India’s point of view, however, China’s defence budget continued to be over three times higher. India’s defence budget for 2023-24 amounted to Rs 5.94 lakh crore (about USD 72.6 billion). Should India be sceptical and bothered about it? No, India has quite the ability and puts a lot of effort into its defence sector. India’s defence sector is diversifying and intensifying at a quick pace.
However, should there be any misadventure, India is capable of retaliation. Indian leadership is aware of and monitoring all the developments unfolding in our neighbourhood. Since defence is a directly relevant subject for India and China, India is alert and looking at it objectively, in lieu of scepticism.
Current status of the volatile Taiwan issue
China largely kept its language regarding Taiwan the same in an annual report to the nation’s legislature, suggesting that President Xi Jinping is maintaining its policy toward the self-ruled island even as global tensions increase.
In August 2022, China staged war games around Taiwan in response to a visit to Taipei by then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Speaking at the opening of the annual meeting of China’s parliament, Li said Beijing stands by the “one China” principle, which states that Taiwan is part of China.
China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has increased its military activity near the island over the past three years, responding to what it calls “collusion” between Taipei and Washington, Taiwan’s main international backer and arms supplier.
Most Taiwanese people have shown no interest in being ruled by autocratic China, which has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Taipei responded that Beijing should respect the Taiwanese people’s commitment to democracy and freedom.
As far as the Taiwan issue is concerned, India is looking at the situation from the Indo-Pacific point of view. It has security-related implications, which has already been explicitly discussed by the expert observers. For the Indo-Pacific members, many have stated that Taiwan is the key to containing China. A strategic link within the paradigm and the global stage.
However, most of the Indo- Pacific countries have upheld the ‘One-China’ policy. Even the ASEAN countries have not gone above and beyond to glance at Taiwan’s plight. India, contrarily chose to skip the term ‘One-China’ as it is playing a hardball with China as its bilateral border situation remains abnormal. India’s unofficial relationship with Taiwan has grown, particularly on the economic front.
China, in its defence, said that its military modernisation is not a threat to any country but a positive force safeguard. But, are the words of China reliable? History knows it all.