China Power

Who is Jiang Luming?

A call for China to double its defence budget isn’t getting as much attention as it deserves.

Well, he’s the head of the Institute for Defence Economics at the National Defence University in China. And according to Prof. June Teufel Dreyer, a China specialist at the University of Miami, he’s someone whose recent remarks should have received a little more attention than they have.

The Financial Times reported last week on comments he penned in the Study Times newspaper, which it described as ‘part of intense lobbying efforts in readiness for the final draft of Beijing’s next five-year plan, which will determine funding for many departments and industries up until 2015.’

But according to Dreyer, the FT report aside, his remarks have been given relatively scant attention by the international media. Dreyer told me: ‘With all the attention given to the recent trial flights of the J-20 and the announcement that the DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile system has reached initial operating capability, one wonders why so little attention has been paid to (his call) to increase China’s defence budget from an alleged 1.4 percent of GDP to 2.8 percent?’

Dreyer had a number of suggestions for what may have been behind Jiang’s remarks. She said it could have been: ‘(a) a trial balloon to China’s civilian leadership (b) a way to scare China’s neighbours still further (c) a signal to US Defence Secretary Robert Gates not to expect any concessions (d) a way to gain traction for the hard-line faction who, in my opinion, are not just the People’s Liberation Army, vis-à-vis those who are arguing that China has been moving ahead too fast and needs to pull back a little?’

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I’ve noted several times how China has risked isolating itself with its more assertive foreign policy in the past 12 months, something that Dreyer appears to agree with. She told me: ‘Recent moves by China’s neighbours indicate that they were already concerned with its aggressive behaviour. Several have made significant purchases of arms, and seem to be casting around for alliance partners. Indian defence officials have spoken to their counterparts in Japan and Australia, and South Korea and Japan have talked about a cooperative defence arrangement. This is startling in light of the historic animosity between the two.’ 

And she finished with a thought it’s hard not to agree with: ‘Could it be that Beijing’s actions are scaring into being a countervailing coalition before China is strong enough to contend with it?’