China will never launch or involve itself in an arms race with any other country, especially the United States, said a senior strategist from the People's Liberation Army on Thursday. [Special coverage]
Lieutenant General He Lei, vice-president of the PLA Academy of Military Science and a national legislator, told reporters that China's diplomatic and defense policies are peaceful and defensive in nature. Therefore no matter how the nation increases its military budget, it will never threaten other countries or engage in an arms race with others.
He, speaking at a news conference held by the State Council Information Office, responded to questions on whether China will open an arms race with the US.
"It doesn't make any sense for us to launch or engage in an arms race. We will not take part in arms races with any parties, especially the United States," He said. "We will firmly follow the path of peaceful development and build our own power."
The lieutenant general said China's defense expenditure has taken a low proportion of the nation's GDP for many years.
"The proportion of our defense spending in the GDP has been lower than 1.3 percent for many years. By comparison, the average ratio in the world is between 2.4 to 2.5 percent while the US and Russia stay at 3-plus percent," he explained, saying China's defense budget in per capita terms is nearly one-twentieth that of the U.S.
China plans to raise its defense budget by 8.1 percent in fiscal 2018, setting the figure at nearly 1.11 trillion yuan ($175 billion).
Speaking of China's development and military deployments on its islands and reefs in the South China Sea, the strategist said that those islands and reefs are undoubtedly China's sacred territories, which have been recognized by international laws, thus other parties have no rights to judge China's moves on them.
"The islands and reefs belong to us so we need armed forces to protect them and the civilian installations there. Deploying troops on our territories is a righteous and lawful right to us. Denying this right is disrespectful to us," He said. "Building and upgrading infrastructure there is aimed at improving the living and training conditions for our troops and also providing public services to civilian airliners and ships passing through that area."
In addition, the lieutenant general suggests that China's neighbors should not be fooled by "ill-willed instigation" by some nations that want to sow dissension between them and China.
"Some countries fear China's development and its being strong, so they hope that the 'China threat theory' would alienate China from its neighbors, especially small ones.
"Those who advocate the 'China threat theory' are the ones who actually threaten others," He said, adding that all of China's military presence overseas is done in accordance with arrangements by the United Nations for peacekeeping or escort missions.