China is becoming increasingly isolated as a result of its effective complicity in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
Its economic outlook is also bleak. These factors will make it difficult to achieve Beijing’s top priority of stability.
China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, has opened its latest session, and this year’s budget proposal and other items have been presented. The growth target for the nation’s gross domestic product was set at “about 5.5%,” which is lower than last year.
In a report on the work of the government, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China’s economy is facing the “triple pressures” of shrinking demand, clogged supply chains and market instability, and that China intends to seek stability through large-scale tax cuts and infrastructure investment.
The supply chain disruptions and market instability are partly due to the escalating conflict between the United States and China. Chinese President Xi Jinping should face the reality that his hard-line approach is hurting his own country and hindering the stability needed to secure a long-term administration.
Even as the country’s economic growth is slowing down, China’s military budget increased 7.1% from the previous year to approximately ¥26.434 trillion. This is about five times the amount of Japan’s defense budget.
As is the case every year, no breakdown of the military budget was presented. The actual budget is believed to be much larger than the declared amount. The current situation cannot be overlooked, as China continues its opaque military expansion without halt, heightening the threat to other countries.
Aiming to catch up with the United States in military power, China has been modernizing its nuclear and missile capabilities, developing hypersonic weapons and upgrading its naval fleet at a rapid pace. The expansion of its military budget reflects this strategy.
In the report, Li emphasized that China will “defend the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests” through “military struggles in a resolute and flexible manner.” This can be taken as an indication of the country’s intention not to refrain from military intimidation or the use of force over “core interests” such as Taiwan and the South and East China Seas.
On the Taiwan issue, he stated that China “firmly opposes foreign interference,” in a bid to put a brake on U.S. involvement in Taiwan. This remark was not included in last year’s report.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is blatant interference in a sovereign nation by a military power. It is clearly contradictory that China is turning a blind eye to Russia’s outrages while advocating “opposition to foreign interference.”
While China justifies autocratic countries such as itself and Russia changing the status quo by force, it describes countermeasures by the democratic camp of Japan and the West that oppose those changes as “interference.” This is self-serving logic.
The international community is showing no tolerance for such sophistry. If China seeks stability, shouldn’t it press for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, rather than helping Russia’s aggression?
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 6, 2022.