February 14, 2012, 3:14 PM HKT.
Chinas defense budget will double by 2015, making it more than the rest of the Asia Pacific regions combined, according to a report from IHS Janes, a global think tank specializing in security issues.
Beijings military spending will reach $238.2 billion in 2015, compared with $232.5 billion for rest of the region, according to the report. That would also be almost four times the expected defense budget of Japan, the next biggest in the region, in 2015, the report said.
The new report was released as Chinas Vice President, Xi Jinping, arrived in Washington at the start of a four-day visit to the U.S. that is seen as a prelude to his expected promotion to Communist Party chief in a once-a-decade leadership change in the fall.
Mr Xi, who is also Vice Chairman of the Partys Central Military Commission, is due to visit the Pentagon on Tuesday after meeting his counterpart, Joe Biden, and Presdent Obama at the White House earlier in the day.
Ahead of the visit, he and other Chinese officials had expressed concern about the U.S. decision to refocus its military strategy on Asia last year, and complained of a trust deficit between Beijing and Washington.
China says that its military spending does not pose a threat to any other country, and has repeatedly pointed out that it still represents a tiny fraction of U.S. defense spending. But the new research highlights what U.S. officials are worried about: That China is rapidly increasing its military spending without being sufficiently transparent about its strategic intentions in the region.
Many of Chinas neighbors have been alarmed in the last year or two by what they see as Beijings more assertive stance on territorial issues, especially over the South China Sea.
China says its defense budget for 2011 increased by 12.7 percent to about $91.5 billion, but many defense experts believe its real military spending is much higher.
IHS Janes put the figure for 2011 at $119.8 billion, and predicted it would increase by an average of 18.75 percent annually until 2015.
Chinas investment will race ahead at an eye watering 18.75 percent, leaving Japan and India far behind, said Paul Burton, senior principal analyst of IHS Janes Defence Budgets.
He added that Taiwans defense spending was expected to have overtaken Singapores by 2015, while Vietnam and Indonesia were also forecast to increase military expenditure at a rate that exceeds GDP growth.
Rajiv Biswas, chief Asia Pacific economist for IHS Global Insight, was quoted saying: Beijing has been able to devote an increasingly large portion of its overall budget towards defence and has been steadily building up its military capabilities for more than two decades.
He continued: This will continue unless there is an economic catastrophe. Conversely Japan and India may have to hold back due to significant economic challenges.
Responding to the report, the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the Communist Party mouthpiece Peoples Daily, did not dispute IHS Janes projections but warned against Western powers with an axe to grind using Chinas military budget to promote the idea of a China threat.
The aim of Chinas defense modernization is safeguard national unity and security, the paper said (in Chinese). Adhering to the policy of coordinated development of national defense and the economy, investment in national defense has always occurred on a moderate and reasonable scale.
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