Go TO Content

Taipei View Beijing's Defense White Paper Published August 3, 1998

  • Date:1998-07-27

Mainland Affairs Council, The Executive Yuan. 16 F, 2-2 Chi Nan Road Sec. 1, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China, July 31, 1998
Tel: 886-2-2397-5589 Fax: 886-2-2397-5286 WWW URL: www.mac.gov.tw E-mail: macst@mac.gov.tw


Published July 27, 1998

1. EXPANDED LENGTH:This Defense White Paper (White Paper hereafter) of some 30,000 words is lengthier than its predecessor, "China's Arms Control and Disarmament" of November 16, 1995 (almost 10,000 words). We are pleased by Beijing's move toward internationally accepted norm of behavior. We hope that Beijing's endeavor continue.
2. LIMITED TRANSPARENCY:Distinct from common international practice, White Paper's coverage on PRC defense intention and capability (e.g. deployment, weaponry & training) approaches nil. The bulk of White Paper discusses military law, international military cooperation, and arms control and disarmament. We regret to see the limited military transparency demonstrated therein.
3. DEFENSE EXPENDITURE QUESTIONED:A persistent source of controversy, Beijing's actual defense expenditure has been estimated to range between two to ten times the official figure (see "Comparative Western Analyses of Chinese Defense Budgets"). White Paper does not clarify the often raised queries such as:
Does the official figure include expenditures for defense R&D, military education, civilian employees in the military, and extra-budgetary items (e.g. US$1.3 billion purchase of Sukhoi-27 fighters)?
In comparison with other nations' defense expenditures, does Beijing include purchasing power parity in the computation of its own (see "Estimated Chinese Defense Spending: Various Purchasing Power Parity Ratios")?
Why does White Paper state only three broad expenditure categories (personnel, maintenance, and equipment) without further breakdowns? "The 1998 National Defense Report ROC", for example, contains a full chapter on defense expenditure (pp.123-134).
4. DEFENSE EXPENDITURE GROWTH:Even at face values, the 1989-97 double-digit growth of Beijing's defense expenditure (average 15.40%) far outstrips PRC 1989-97 inflation (average 9.42%). White Paper covers up the fact by using 1979-94 figures. Its state most, "From 1979 to 1994 defense spending increased by 6.22 percent annually in absolute terms, which represented in real terms a negative growth of 1.08 percent compared to the 7.3 percent annual increase of the country's general retail price index of commodities in the same period."
5. ARMS ACQUISITIONS & SALES:The Tables 5 & 6 in White Paper cover arms sales and acquisitions in 1992-1996. Much is left out.
Why is 1997 not mentioned? In 1997, Beijing purchased at least two advanced missile destroyers of Sovremenny class for US$1billion, and one A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft for US$250 million (Jane's Defense Weekly Dec. 10/97 p.29).
Why is left out the 1994 purchase of four Kilo submarines for US$1billion?
Why has the US still been accusing Beijing (July 29/98 the latest) for selling missiles to Iran and others after Beijing promised not to anymore?
6. PEOPLE'S ARMED POLICE:White Paper does not mention that in 1996 Beijing began transferring 14 divisions of People's Liberation Army soldiers(about 100,000) to People's Armed Police, which has acquired field combat capabilities. Are these included in the forthcoming reduction of 500,000 PLA soldiers referred to in White Paper? Does White Paper count the combat-capable 100,000 in PAP as arms reduction?
7. TAIWAN POLICY:The 150-word portion on Taiwan policy in White Paper, only 0.5% of the whole, reiterates Beijing's established position, with no new addition. However, White Paper's mentioning that Beijing will renounce the use of force against Taiwan is contradictory to the Paper's peace-loving theme and its effort on muting "China threat".