NEW DELHI -- Recently, both China and India increased their official defense budgets for fiscal year 2010, to $78 billion and $32 billion, respectively (although according to Western observers, China's actual military spending is up to three times the official figures). In doing so, Beijing raised its defense allocation by 7.5 percent, and New Delhi by just under 4 percent.
Besides the differences in absolute budget and percentage growth, the two countries also demonstrate contrasting approaches to achieving their overall military objectives. For China, defense spending is a means toward achieving long-term power ambitions and military supremacy, while India is caught in an exercise of resource allocation, devoid of long-term goals. The result, visible in the two countries' military capabilities, is distinctly favorable to China.
Before this year, China's official defense spending witnessed double-digit growth for the last 20 years. The sustained increase in spending was calibrated to support Beijing's strategy of achieving Comprehensive National Power (CNP), which includes both soft and hard power. As Beijing's biennial defense White Paper shows, spending grew at an annual average of 14.5 percent between 1988 and 1997. Allocations during this period were meant to "make up for the inadequacy of defense development" that existed in earlier years, when defense spending was subordinated to economic development. Once the initial deficiency was addressed, China then stepped up its spending by an annual average of 15.9 percent per year for the next 10 years to 2007, and by nearly 18 percent in both 2008 and 2009. Much of the post-1997 allocation was directed to achieving mastery of network-centric and precision-guided modern warfare, paying close attention to lessons learned from the overwhelming U.S. military supremacy in the first Gulf War.