China's government decided during this year's annual meetings of the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference to increase the country's military budget by 10.1% under the justification of needing to purchase more advanced weapon systems to replace old hardware left over from the Mao Zedong era, writes Vassily Kashin of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow's Sputnik News.
In the 1980s and '90s, the Chinese government focused most of its resources on economic reforms rather than defense under Deng Xiaoping's open door policy following the economic disaster of the Cultural Revolution. It was a similar situation to what Russia would later face after the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991, Kashin said. The People's Liberation Army received very limited funding to buy new arms to replace its hardware from the 1950s and '60s.
During the 1980s, hardware like the Type 88 tank, Type 89 armored personnel carrier, Type 89 120mm tank destroyer and Type 83 152mm self-propelled howitzer were produced but only in very small numbers. They were certainly not enough to replace the obsolete military hardware designed when Chairman Mao was still around (Mao died in 1976).
Now the world's second largest economy, the possession of a powerful military is seen as a vital component of the country's rise to world power status and the PLA's budget is set to increase for the forseeable future, the piece said. Kashin said it is possible China will one day have the world's most powerful military. The new injection of funds will not only used to improve equipment, but to improve logistics and pay for military personnel as well, according to Kashin.