16:39 GMT +309 December 2019
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    Soldiers of People's Liberation Army (PLA) Lanzhou Military Region jump through a burning obstacle during a training session at a military base in Tianshui, Gansu province, China, January 6, 2016

    Could China's Slowed Military Spending Mean Reduced Ambitions?

    © REUTERS / Stringer
    Asia & Pacific
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    China's defense budget growth slowed to the smallest growth rate in years, as a result of what could be either a budgetary issue or the existence of a major barrier for further expansion.

    Although the growth of China's defense budget slowed for the first time in years, the reason may not be simply a desire to cut slack amid a budget crunch as much as a limit to growth.

    Prior to the budget decrease announcement, China reorganized its military districts by consolidating existing regions toward a national defense policy focused on external challenges and accordingly cut staff. At the same time, mega-projects for force projection over defense still appear far off for China.

    "China, for the most part, has achieved one of its major military modernization goals: being able to contest a US or allied intervention in any one of its core territorial interests (think broadly Taiwan, the South and East China Seas)," Senior Fellow at the China Policy Institute Harry Kazianis wrote in the National Interest.

    A man rides past a branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in the border city of Dandong in northeast China
    © AP Photo / Ng Han Guan
    The new military districts also create more challenges for commanders, who would have to balance multiple challenges, rather than lobby more funds for an issue which overwhelms the district. At the same time, the district around China's capital has been reconfigured to focus on the primary issue of protecting the capital region, while the district responsible for Taiwan and disputed islands in the East China Sea remains unchanged.

    However, as Kazianis noted, moving to the next stage of global power projection would mean massive investments in next-generation weapons. Considering the Chinese military's current reshuffle and the budget crunch, the army-heavy structure with no organized rapid-response expeditionary branch (such as the US' Marines or Russia's Airborne Forces), it appears simply unready for a massive infusion of funding for a radically new project.

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    Tags:
    military modernization, defense budget, budget deficit, People's Liberation Army, China
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