Premier Wen Jiabao said China would strengthen its military's capabilities to win “local wars under information-age conditions”, even as the government announced a steep 11.5% rise in domestic security spending to ensure stability ahead of a leadership transition.
China will spend 111.4 billion dollars on public security, which includes police and state security forces, in the coming year — an amount that exceeds even the defense budget. This is according to a report presented by the Ministry of Finance on Monday, at the start of the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislative body. Military spending for 2012 was announced a day earlier at 106.4 billion, marking the second consecutive year in which the internal security budget has surpassed the outlay on national defense.
The boost to internal security comes amid recent unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang. On Monday, a Tibetan teenager and a widowed mother of four were reported by overseas groups to have set themselves on fire to protest religious policies in Gansu and Sichuan provinces.
At least 25 self-immolations by monks and nuns have been reported in the past year while Tibetans have clashed with police forces in Sichuan, resulting in the deployment of additional security across many Tibetan areas in western China. Xinjiang has also seen intermittent ethnic unrest, with at least 20 people killed in violence near Kashgar last month.
Wen Jibao, in his annual address, called for strengthening the capabilities of the armed forces “to accomplish a wide range of military tasks”, of which he said “the most important… is to win local wars under information-age conditions”.
“Strong national defense and powerful armed forces provide a firm guarantee for safeguarding China's sovereignty, security, and development interests,” he said, adding that the armed forces would be made “more revolutionary and modern”. China would also accelerate modernization of the logistics support system for the military and invest in developing weapons and equipment.
Defending the military spending, the Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial it was the US that had “made China the focus of its strategic defense”.
“As China has stepped into the frontline of international political confrontations, it must speed up its national defense power,” it said, adding that China “cannot rely on diplomacy for defense” with the Taiwan question being unresolved and the potential for disputes over the South China Sea to escalate.