China conducted a comprehensive analysis of its security environment for the first time in a key policy document on Friday, saying the country still faces challenges, such as the struggle to oppose and contain separatist forces for "Taiwan independence."
The White Paper on national defence, the fifth of its kind issued by the Chinese Government since 1998, also illustrated Beijing's nuclear strategy for the first time and offered a fresh picture of the defence build-up of its coast and borders.
Zhang Bangdong, chief of the foreign affairs office with the Ministry of Defence, said the most interesting part of the 10-chapter document is that China's national military policy is purely defensive in nature.
Focusing on peace and development, the document offers a comprehensive picture of China's national defence ranging from its security environment, the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the people's armed police force, defence expenditure and modernization.
According to the paper, the PLA currently has 2.3 million troops after three major cuts since the 1980s.
From 1990 to 2005, China's defence expenditure increased by 15.36 per cent every year on average, reaching US$30.65 billion last year. However, considering the consumer price index increase, actual defence spending grew only 9.64 per cent, the paper said.
The defence budgets of the world's three biggest military spenders the United States, Great Britain and Japan were US$495.33 billion, US$57.88 billion and US$45.4 billion respectively in 2005.
"The total amount of defence spending and per person share is relatively low compared to that of many other countries," Zhang said.
China's per person share of defence spending was US$13,320 last year, much lower than that of the United States, Great Britain and Japan, which were US$356,610, US$288,030, and US$188,470 respectively.
"The growth of defence expenditure on the basis of China's national condition conforms to the rules of military build-up and all the released figures are true and reliable," he said.
"The white paper shows the basic ideas of the national security strategy for the first time in a government document," Zhang said, "and its highly transparent intention demonstrates that China does not have any plans for military expansion."
China's security strategy is to pursue peaceful development and work with other nations to secure peace, prosperity and harmony in the world, Zhang added.
Analyzing the overall situation in the Asia-Pacific, the paper said "new changes have occurred in hotspots in the region," referring to the strengthening military alliance between Washington and Tokyo and Pyongyang's nuclear test.
Addressing its nuclear capability, the paper said China's nuclear arms were based on "a self-defensive nuclear strategy," adding that the country remains firmly committed to the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons.
Such an assurance is not often given by other military powers, said Zhang, stressing that it is a key aspect of China's military openness.
In order to make the White Paper more understandable to the international community, the military foreign affairs chief held a news briefing with about 70 military attaches from 45 countries on Friday.
Zhang said every release of the national defence White Paper from 1998 has improved China's military transparency.
However, Zhang said, China has its own way of defining transparency that may differ from Western countries.
Milan Vana, military attach with the Czech Republic and acting dean of the Beijing Military Attach Corp, said the newly released white paper is more detailed than previous White Papers.
He said he would seriously study the paper, and believes the document will help foreign countries better understand China's national defence policy and its military build-up.
(China Daily December 31, 2006)