Jeffrey LewisChina's National Defense in 2004

China has released a new white paper, China’s National Defense in 2004.

An exercise in … uh … the middle of nowhere.

One section in the 2002 White Paper—“National Defense Construction Structure and Organization of the Armed Forces”—has been divided into several new sections:

  • Ch. 4 Defense Expenditure and Defense Assets
  • Ch. 5 The Military Service System
  • Ch. 7 Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense

The expanded section on defense expenditure focuses on placing China’s defense expenditure in context of state expenditure, both in terms of the overall burden of defense spending and efforts to impose some structure on defense spending.

The white paper includes the annual breakdown of PLA spending by category. Using the last three white papers, expenses since 1998:

Year Personnel Operations Equipment Total
1998 322.7 298.0 314.0 934.7
1999 348.6 380.3 347.8 1076.7
2000 405.5 412.7 389.3 1207.5
2001 461.6 485.8 494.6 1442.0
2002 540.4 581.2 572.8 1694.4
2003 620.1 641.0 646.8 1907.9

Unit: RMB billion

References to China’s nuclear weapons are still pretty thin. For my money, the China’s National Defense in 2000 still has the best description of China’s nuclear posture.

Another chapter from 2002—“Armed Forces Building” has also been expanded and divided. There is a new chapter—“Revolution in Military Affairs with Chinese Characteristics”—that will have Rick Fisher in a lather. It is pretty mundane stuff, however, related to the challenge of equipping shifting the PLA toward a smaller (still 2.3 M), more capable force. The portion devoted to the RMA and the Second Artillery focuses on improving the quality of missiles, operations and training.

I suppose the bottom line is that the White Paper is another step toward transparency, but not nearly enough to satisfy the right in the United States which will continue to offer inflated alternate defense spending estimates and will jump all over the RMA chapter.

I usually miss the really interesting comments on the first read of Chinese white papers, so I reserve the right to revise my judgment.


  1. Thomas J. Jackson (History)

    Clarification please. The currency amounts are, I assume in Chinese currency?

  2. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    “RMB Billion” is Chinese Renminbi, known also as Yuan.

    I don’t like to use exchange rates for various reasons noted here.