China’s New Defense Paper Continues Tradition of Military Secrecy

China’s New Defense Paper Continues Tradition of Military Secrecy

On Dec. 29, China published its latest white paper on national defense. In the past, the government's security-related publications have been rich in generalities about China's good intentions but sparse in specifics about its actual capabilities. "China's National Defense in 2006" continues in this tradition.

The United States and other countries have repeatedly called on the Chinese government to make its military budget and programs more transparent in order to minimize misunderstandings about China's intentions. They caution that China's excessive military secrecy may alarm its neighbors and impede China's integration into regional security institutions.

The new paper attempts to address some of these concerns. Its authors attribute recent increases in China's defense spending primarily to the steady growth of the country's economy, which has allowed for expensive improvements in troop pay and living conditions. They also stress China's need to keep pace with other countries, "particularly major powers," which are upgrading their own militaries. To this end, the paper contains several charts depicting the United States and its allies as spending much more than China on national defense.

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