China 'won't threaten US in Pacific for a decade'
China's military budget is the fastest growing in the world but it will not pose a serious challenge to US dominance of the Pacific for a decade, the think tank IISS said in its annual report on the world's armies on Tuesday.
The respected International Institute for Strategic Studies said that despite the effects of the global financial crisis, the 7.5pc growth in the Chinese defence budget in 2010 was greater than most countries.
Such growth "continued to provoke concern", the London-based group said in its "Military Balance 2011" study.
Christian Le Miere, the IISS Naval expert said that Chinese missiles and naval forces would not be capable of denying US access to parts of the pacific with anti-ship missiles and assault forces for 10-20 years.
The report said China's primary focus was regional, pointing to the status of Taiwan – which Beijing still claims as part of its territory to be reunified by force if necessary – and disputes in the East and South China Seas as Beijing's overriding concerns.
"By and large, China remains a regional power with regional concerns, as demonstrated in 2010 by a series of exercises, construction projects and equipment purchases," it said.
But the report underlined that the world's military powers were watching China warily as it begins "tentatively to explore operations further afield".
The report said the United States spent $693bn on defence in 2010 – 4.7pc of its GDP – compared to China's $76bn (1.3pc/GDP).
Those concerns heightened on Friday when China announced a double-digit rise its defence budget in 2011, with spending to increase 12.7pc to 601.1bn yuan ($91.5bn).
That was a return to normal service for China – the 7.5pc rise last year broke with a multiyear trend of double-digit percentage increases in Chinese military spending.
The IISS said however that China's goal of closing the technological gap with the West could be undermined by "serious structural weaknesses".
"One overarching problem is the widespread duplication and Balkanisation of industrial and research facilities," it said.
Factories producing arms are scattered around the vast country "and often possess outdated manufacturing and research attributes", it said.
China was aiming to acquire such as the submarines and anti-ship missiles was designed to dent the dominance of U.S. aircraft carriers in nearby waters particularly the Taiwan Strait.
Beijing's military growth was itself driving other nearby Asian powers to ramp up their own purchases.