Sequestration: How China sees the prospect of U.S. military cuts

China is a rising military power in the Pacific and the U.S. is partly a counterbalance, but U.S. military sequester spending cuts may turn out to be a mixed blessing for China.

Now that a budgetary doomsday scenario has been laid out for the world’s largest military, you might think China would see this as its golden opportunity to assert itself regionally. Think again, says Jin Canrong, International Relations Professor at Beijing’s Renmin University.

"In the coming years the defense budget will be cut, but the military power of the United States is far ahead of China," says Jin.

But China’s catching up. Last September, Beijing revealed the country’s first aircraft carrier. Ten years ago, the U.S. spent 19-times what China spent on defense. This year, it was down to 5-times.

Shen Dingli, Dean of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, estimates in 10 years, the U.S. will spend $500 billion a year on its military while China’s defense budget will be close behind at $300 billion.

"That’ll certainly have a serious impact on military power in the Pacific." says Shen,  "The U.S. won’t have enough money to support its naval forces at that point and China will."

But China has benefited from the global stability provided by a strong U.S. military. For example, U.S. intervention in Iraq in 1990 helped China, says Shen, by stabilizing global oil prices. And for China, a big military could mean big responsibilities and bigger expenditures.

"I think China should actually decrease military spending alongside the U.S.," says Shen.

In other words, says Shen, cuts in military spending could be good news on both sides of the Pacific.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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