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China defence spending rises as U.S. budget declines

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

As China prepares for the final plenum of the 17th Party Congress, it has announced that the new defence budget would amount to 670 billion RMB (approximately $106 billion), which equates to a 11.2 percent increase. This is in sharp contrast to the United States, which, despite a so-called “pivot to Asia,” is busily reducing its defence budget.

The increase in China’s defence spending, atop last year’s 12.7 percent increase, highlights that China’s defence spending is now larger than that of all other Asian nations combined — a sobering statistic when one considers that this includes the world’s third-largest economy (Japan) and North and South Korea, which remain locked in a Cold War-era standoff.

Many look at the U.S. defence budget and decry the fact that it is larger than the next dozen or so states combined. Yet the U.S. is a key enforcer of international norms and safety. It is the American Navy, more than any other, that keeps the world’s sea lanes safe. It is the U.S. Air Force that provides space situational awareness, including conjunction warnings, to all other space-faring nations (including China) and manages the GPS constellation to global benefit — both without charge.

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