The defence budget announcement comes as China remains locked in territorial disputes with neighbouring countries including India, Japan and Vietnam.
PC : Reuters

BEIJING: China must apply cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence if it wants to transform its military into a modern fighting force on a par with those of other leading powers, according to new guidelines and comments from President Xi Jinping and other officials.

The statements come from a booklet published this month by the state-run People’s Publishing House, in which senior officials, including President Xi, outlined the latest five-year plan for the country’s development.

The military modernisation is being pushed by 67-year-old Xi, who besides heading the ruling Communist Party (CPC) and the Presidency is also the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), which is the overall high command for China’s 2-million strong military.

China this year approved about USD 179 billion defence budget, the second-highest after United States defence spending of USD 732 billion.

According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) military expenditure figures, China defence spending in 2019 amounted to USD 232 billion.

Recent key conclave of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) has finalised plans to build a fully modern military on par with the US by 2027.

By the year 2027, which marks the centennial of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China will build a fully modern military, a goal that is in alignment with the national strength and will fulfil the future national defence need, state-run Global Times quoted Chinese analysts as saying early this month.

The Plenary session of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) headed by Xi, which held a four-day meeting, adopted his proposals for the formulation of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035.

Analysts say China’s aim is to build an army that is on a par with that of the United States.

In an article titled “Speed up the Modernisation of Defence and Military” from the booklet published by People’s Publishing House, Xu Qiliang, vice-chairman of the CMC, stressed the importance of smart technologies in modernising the PLA, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.

Military analyst Ye Jianliang said that it is imperative for China to improve its military might to match its economic strength.

The military had to be more proactive in designing how the war was fought, rather than just responding to conflicts, he said.

“(China has to) keep pace with the developments of the times and emphasise the use of smart technologies to achieve interdisciplinary innovation,” Xu said.

That would involve modernising military theories, formations, personnel and strategic management, he was quoted as saying.

“Always bear in mind that (a nation) is in danger if it forgets about war or makes inadequate preparations for war,” Xu said.

His comments were echoed in another article in the booklet, which said modernisation was essential to making an intelligent military, the Post report said.

“A new round of scientific and technological revolution, industrial revolution and military revolution is evolving rapidly…it’s a global trend to build an intelligent military,” it said.

The transformation process should be about creating a fighting force that is less labour-intensive and more focused on new technology, much of it home-grown, it said.

Military analyst Ye Jianliang said in his article in the booklet that China’s defence capabilities do not match its status in the international community or its national security needs.

“History has repeatedly proven that a strong nation can only be built with both economic and military power … when the ‘sword’ is not sharp enough, a nation may fall, he said.