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China Won't Give Up: A new arms race is exploding with great momentum, and America could be very worried

China Won't Give Up: A new arms race is exploding with great momentum, and America could be very worried

The second meeting of the 14th annual session of China's National People's Congress, which has about 3,000 members, was held this week. ONGY practically corresponds to Parliament, which is the main decision-making body of the country and meets only once a year, which lasts for several days. In these meetings, matters are said that will determine China's policy in the coming period, and discussions take place in the weeks following the Chinese Lunar New Year. In many cases, the 170-member Standing Committee only consults, so it often formulates the basic principles. In parallel, the annual meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference is also held, which is why the event is collectively called the “Two Sessions” (lianghui).

At the meetings, the annual report of the government is presented, and the President of the Supreme People's Court and the Prosecutor of the Supreme People's Prosecutor's Office present reports. They determine the budget, introduce many laws, and discuss political decisions.

Therefore, this week means in Chinese political life that the decision-making mechanism is accelerating to the maximum extent, and almost all important issues are decided at this time.

The parties previously made some resounding statements last week, which are very striking statements from the point of view of the future of the superpower in the East.

The greatest expectations were surrounding Beijing's economic target, after China's financial sector suffered more than expected last year. ONGY, like the previous year, forecast a cautious growth of 5 percent for this year. Much attention has also been paid to the direction in which the eastern superpower will head from a geopolitical point of view in the coming year. This question has become extremely important due to the increasing security policy threats in recent years:

  • At the beginning of this year, elections were held in Taiwan, where the candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party, which is moving towards independence, Lai Ching-teu, received the largest number of votes. Since 1949, Beijing has resented the island's semi-independence, but in recent years, Chinese forces have used physical threats around Taiwan. Many expect the conflict between the two Chinas to escalate under the control of pro-American forces.
  • The territorial dispute in the South China Sea, especially with the Philippines, is increasingly aggravating. Accidents have already occurred between the two countries when rival coast guard vessels collided with each other. The increasingly loud sounds of swords threaten the region with actual military confrontation.
  • Behind both cases stands the biggest competitor, the United States.

    Washington maintains close relations with both Taipei and Manila, and has granted defense guarantees to the island governments.

    We should also not forget that the White House is working to form something similar to a “second NATO” with the participation of China’s old rivals, South Korea and Japan. Ultimately, the tension between the two superpowers is about replacing America's global hegemonic role. Although this has eased somewhat since the November 2023 meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden.

  • The year 2023 was not the best for the Chinese military, as serious accusations of corruption emerged on several occasions, while several commanders were forced to leave their posts. The separation between political leadership and military decision-making appears to have blurred, indicating internal tensions and lack of trust.

The 7.2% increase in defense spending announced on Inauguration Day, March 4, represents an increase of exactly the same percentage over the previous year. An increase of 7.1 percent was announced in 2022, and 6.8 percent in 2021. This reflects Beijing's continued commitment to a policy of stable and steady increases in military spending.

The 2024 budget will rise to a total of 1.665 trillion yuan, equivalent to about 231.4 billion dollars.

This makes China the second-largest military spender in the world, although it is still far behind its largest competitor. By comparison, US military spending is expected to reach $842 billion by 2024.

In order to realize China's global ambitions, there was also talk of adopting several bills on March 8. The most prominent of these issues are national security, emergency management, and a proposal on nuclear energy. In addition, Cao Liqi, Chairman of the Parliament Standing Committee, promised to review documents on national defense education and cyber defense. Zhao put it this way:

We will use legal means to defend our country on the international stage and resolutely defend our sovereignty, security and development interests.

In addition to the decision-making of leading bodies, these days are also famous for the fact that the most important managers of the country also speak. President Xi Jinping spoke Thursday at the plenary session of the delegation of the People's Liberation Army and People's Armed Police, which was also broadcast on Chinese state television. Xi focused on very similar areas as Zhao Lichi, prioritizing cyber defense:

We must build a cyber defense system and improve the ability to maintain national network security.

However, it was more important than that The Chinese President drew attention to the role of naval warfare.

He called on the armed forces to coordinate their activities in preparation for a possible conflict at sea.

He added that the country's interests at sea must be protected as well. In this regard, it was announced this week that the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy will soon be expanded with another aircraft carrier. This is Beijing's response to the fact that the United States will deploy a total of five similar warships in the Western Pacific this year, indicating Washington's regional priority.

In addition to the president, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Jie also spoke, who also formulated specific threats regarding Taiwan. He said, “Whoever supports the independence of the island is playing with fire and burning himself.” He added that Beijing supports “peaceful unification.” In addition, he has mostly emphasized the peaceful aspirations of the great powers in the East, so they are calling for a peaceful solution in the Gaza Strip and Ukraine as well.

What has been said allows us to conclude some things:

Analysts thought that during the meetings they discovered some uncertainty in the behavior of the political elite, as well as deviations from the normal course of business. The volatility and instability that China has witnessed in recent years has called into question Xi Jinping's status as a leader. Traditionally, a meeting of the 200-member Central Committee, the highest organ of the Chinese Communist Party, is held before the ONGY. However, this year they deviated from the usual arrangement that… It sparked controversy Among Chinese domestic policy analysts. According to some, this move, which the country has not seen in thirty years, shows a state of uncertainty in Beijing, as they cannot determine exactly where they want to direct the country's economy. On the other hand, there are those who claim the exact opposite, and say that the step indicates confidence in the president, because it means confidence in what has been done so far, and there is nothing new to say.

The meetings are not over yet, so more important announcements can still be expected through Monday evening, but an announcement of a radical or dominant change would already fall into the category of surprise.

The basic guidelines for the coming year have been set for the country, but the real question is to what extent the leadership in Beijing can adhere to these principles.

Cover image source: Fu Tian/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

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