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China splurging on military as U.S. pulls back

By Christopher Bodeen

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:05 p.m. HST, Apr 24, 2014

QINGDAO, China » China's navy commissioned 17 new warships last year, the most of any nation. In a little more than a decade, it's expected to have three aircraft carriers, giving it more clout than ever in a region of contested seas and festering territorial disputes.

Those numbers testify to huge increases in defense spending that have endowed China with the largest military budget behind the United States and fueled an increasingly large and sophisticated defense industry. While Beijing still lags far behind the U.S. in both funding and technology, its spending boom is attracting new scrutiny at a time of severe cuts in U.S. defense budgets that have some questioning Washington's commitments to its Asian allies, including some who have lingering disputes with China.

Beijing's newfound military clout is one of many issues confronting President Barack Obama as he visits the region this week. Washington is faced with the daunting task of fulfilling its treaty obligations to allies such as Japan and the Philippines, while also maintaining cordial relation with key economic partner and rising regional power China.

China's boosted defense spending this year grew 12.2 percent to $132 billion, continuing more than two decades of nearly unbroken double-digit percentage increases that have afforded Beijing the means to potentially alter the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific. Outside observers put China's actual defense spending significantly higher, although estimates vary widely.

Increases in spending signal "strength and resolve to China's neighbors," requiring other countries to pay close attention to where Beijing is assigning its resources, said China defense expert Abraham Denmark, vice president for political and security affairs at the U.S-based National Bureau of Asian Research.

At the same time, the U.S. military is seeking to redirect resources to the Asia-Pacific as it draws down its defense commitment in Afghanistan, although officers warn that budget cuts could potentially threaten plans to base 60 percent of U.S. naval assets to the region. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert recently warned that U.S. capabilities to project power "would not stay ahead" of those of potential adversaries, given the fiscal restraints.

Meanwhile, China's navy is rapidly developing into a force to contend with the U.S., long the dominant military player in the Asia-Pacific region.

China commissioned its first aircraft carrier — a refurbished Ukrainian hull — in 2012, and another two indigenous carriers are expected to enter service by 2025, significantly increasing Beijing's ability to project power into the South China Sea that it claims virtually in its entirety.

Analysts say China will have as many as 78 submarines by 2020, part of an expansion that has seen it leap past the U.S. and Russia in numbers of warships delivered annually, according to experts and available figures.

"That's very much in line with the leadership's call for China to become a major military-industrial power," said Tai Ming Cheung, director of the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California, San Diego.

By comparison, the U.S. Navy takes on about 10 major vessels per year, while Russia averages slightly less.

Despite the impressive hardware, uncertainty still surrounds the capabilities of China's armed forces, which haven't seen significant combat since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Home-grown technologies have yet to be tested in battle, and training and organization are hampered by a risk-adverse attitude and overemphasis on political indoctrination that reflects the People's Liberation Army's essential role as the defender of the ruling Communist Party.

"Being the world leader is all about software and networking," said Denny Roy, an expert on the Chinese military at the East-West Center in Hawaii, referring to problems with China's command structure and communications.

Concerns about Chinese aggression focus on three scenarios: An attack on self-governing island democracy Taiwan that China claims as its own territory; an attempt to seize uninhabited East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but claimed by China; and a move to drive off claimants to waters and islands claimed by China in the South China Sea.

All those situations pose considerable risks for Beijing, ranging from a lack of transport and resupply capabilities, to the near certainty of the formidable U.S. military responding in defense of its allies. Japan and the Philippines are U.S. treaty partners, while American law requires Washington to respond to threats against Taiwan.

Although tensions with Japan have grown sharper over the islands dispute, Beijing takes great pains to play down the impact its military may have on the region. Its explanations about its military buildup, however, mix a proclaimed desire for closer cooperation with prickly nationalism.

Addressing navy chiefs from two dozen nations gathered at a forum in the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao on Wednesday, one of China's most powerful generals said China is committed to maintain peace and stability but would never compromise its national interests.

"No country should expect China to swallow the bitter pill of compromising our sovereignty rights, national security and development interests," said Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Communist Party's Central Military Commission.

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HOSSANA wrote:
Everyone can thank Obammy for making the U.S. a weaker nation that has lost the respect among the nations of the world which is why Putin is fearless in his invasion of Crimea and ignores Obammy with "a whiff of his hand" as the saying goes.
on April 24,2014 | 06:26AM
krusha wrote:
The US Defense budget still probably is bigger than all the other nations in the world combined, so people need to stop worrying. By the way, people keep grumbling about this economy and how we should cut everything, yet they are quick to criticize when they try to right-size the bloated military budget that has plagued our economy for decades.
on April 24,2014 | 07:03AM
pcman wrote:
IRT Russia on defense. The economy will actually get worse because of Obama's Defense cutbacks. He, like you perhaps, think spending the money to buy votes, is better than to employ people in the military and defense industries which amount to millions of lost jobs, not only lost employment. We are headed for another recession, if not depression without the defense jobs.
on April 24,2014 | 10:37AM
HD36 wrote:
The US already has a standing army of government employees. Remember, they get paid from the rest of us. Do you know of any viable economy which is 100% or even 50% run by government employees?
on April 24,2014 | 04:36PM
ryan02 wrote:
The Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight, due to unsupportable increase in its military spending while production of civilian goods declined. The USSR squandered too much money fighting foreign wars (like the one in Afghanistan). Yet, there are still people in the U.S. who think that's what the U.S. should do, too.
on April 24,2014 | 07:09AM
HD36 wrote:
Yes, the former USSR tried to keep up with Reagan's arms race.
on April 24,2014 | 07:54AM
pcman wrote:
IRT ryan on Russia. Actually, the USSR could not convert defense spending to commercial jobs, employment, and products like the US could. Just for example, military-developed portable computers were developed into desk tops and laptops. Military electronic navigation system was converted to the GPS. The military intelligence data network was developed into the internet. The military missile system were developed into space exploration. Military transport aircraft were developed into commercial aircraft. Military troop transport ships were developed into cruise ships. I could go on and on from medical innovations to normal household things. That's the difference between capitalism and communism and American exceptionalism and communism. See my above comment.
on April 24,2014 | 10:49AM
HD36 wrote:
pcman, all these inventions occured despite government intervention. They probably would have been invented earlier and with less cost from the private sector.
on April 24,2014 | 04:38PM
ghstar wrote:
China can afford to spend on its military if it wants to. The US, with a large deficit, can't. Our trade imbalance with China enables them to invest in military technology and equipment. As note by Ryan and HD36, the US won the cold war by essentially bankrupting the old USSR who tried to keep up with our spending on the military and took on expensive, fruitless, needless wars. Even the most fervent neo-cons and chicken hawks should be able to see the similarities here.
on April 24,2014 | 08:57AM
pcman wrote:
IRT ghstar on US deficit. Spending on US Defense did not create all of the deficit. We were able to pay of the cost of Defense until 9/11 and the war on terrorism but Obama's spending on his election and reelection bribes and stimulus put our deficit and debts behind $8Trillion. That's where we are now. If we cannot defend our country, our people and the American way of life, then we should just become a second class country where Obama is heading, if we aren't there already. When Obama became president we were a military, economic, and political super power. We have lost it all under Obama. How sweet! LOL!
on April 24,2014 | 11:00AM
ghstar wrote:
pcman -- where do you get your information? Your assertions are simply not true. Obama inherited a mess. The wars in Iraq and AF were not started on his watch and the 3 trillion dollar cost was already locked in when he came into office. The financial crisis was in full bloom when he took over. Bush passed the medicare prescription drug benefit. These are the drivers of the deficit.
on April 24,2014 | 12:18PM
HD36 wrote:
It was primarily the space program and the Vietnam War under Johnson's guns and butter presidency which caused foreign creditors to exchange their dollars for gold. They saw our debt soaring. Nixon had to close the gold window on August 15th 1971. This was in effect a default on the Bretton Woods agreement, in which the dollar was given status as the world's reserve currency because we gauranteed at that time, that, the dollar was as good as holding gold.
on April 24,2014 | 04:42PM
honopic wrote:
"Obammy" - are you serious? Could you be any more blatantly racist? And what is this "whiff of his hand" saying that nobody but you has ever heard?
on April 24,2014 | 01:42PM
Anonymous wrote:
HOSSANA, I agree that your comments on "Obammy" are racist and inappropriate. Freedom of speech does not entitle you to make such racists comments.
on April 24,2014 | 02:12PM
Anonymous wrote:
China have enough internal problems, fierce power struggle is going on within the politburo. They won't go to war. This is just a maneuver to save face.
on April 24,2014 | 12:27PM
HD36 wrote:
They have one aircraft carrier, which they bought on the used aircraft carrier market from the Ukraine after the Soviet Union fell apart. It was a rust bucket they bought on the cheap. No , Ukraine was never a great naval power.
on April 24,2014 | 05:40PM
salsacoquibx wrote:
Everyone can thank themselves..dont blame the administrations present and past..its all our money supporting the Chinese military. Think about it next time you buy a made in China item..you might be paying for their next atomic bomb..boyah!!
on April 24,2014 | 03:16PM
HD36 wrote:
True, Clinton gave China most favored nation status in 1999 and started an exodus of manufacturing jobs from the US to China The thought back then, was the internet would be the new economy. When that bubble popped, the Fed lowered interest rates again and blew up the housing and finance bubble. When that popped in 2008, emergency debt monetization by the Federal Reserve kept interest rates at historic lows. Should rates normalize, a 1% increase would amount to a $175 billion dollars in interest rate payments alone. The US has had a trade deficit since 1971 when Nixon closed the gold window and delinked the dollar to any type of fiscal discipline. Obama has taken deficit spending to another level, and the United States desperately needs Japan to hold on and buy more US Treasury bonds at the same time it needs China to hold on and buy more. Since the Fed started the Taper from $85 billion a month down to $65 billion at present, Belgium has mysteriously become one of the biggest buyers of US Treasury bonds. The absurdity of it becomes apparent when you realize the amount of their bond holding are almost as much as their GDP! This is a war where central banks allign their interest before the people.
on April 24,2014 | 04:18PM
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