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China’s Spending on Internal Policing Outstrips Defense Budget

China's Spending on Internal Policing Oustrips Defense
Police with dogs patrol the Wangfujing pedestrian street in Beijing on the day of a planned rally inspired by demonstrations in the Middle East. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

China spent more on its internal police force than on its armed forces in 2010, and plans to do the same this year, as the government deployed security forces around the country to control growing social unrest.

China spent 548.6 billion yuan ($83.5 billion) on internal security last year, 6.7 percent more than budgeted and a 15.6 percent increase over 2009, the Finance Ministry said in a report released yesterday. Last year China spent 533.5 billion yuan on national defense, or 0.3 percent more than budgeted, according to the Finance Ministry.

The surge in public security spending comes as so-called mass incidents, everything from strikes to riots and demonstrations, are on the rise. There were at least 180,000 such incidents in 2010, twice as many as in 2006, Sun Liping, a professor of sociology at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, said in a Feb. 25 article in the Economic Observer.

Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee who oversees the country’s security forces, said in a Feb. 21 article in the People’s Daily, the party’s official mouthpiece, that the government must “defuse social conflicts and disputes just as they germinate.”

This year, the government plans to spend 624.4 billion yuan on public security, a 13.8 percent increase from 2010, and 601.2 billion yuan on defense, a 12.7 percent increase, according to the Finance Ministry. The announcement comes days after hundreds of police deployed in cities across the country following an online call for rallies inspired by uprisings in the Middle East.

Like national defense, China spends less on its police than the U.S. Federal, state and local governments spent a combined $213.7 billion on police, prisons and the judicial system in 2005, the last year figures are available, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the Department of Justice.

U.S. spending on the justice system in 2005 was 1.7 percent of that year’s gross domestic product. China’s announced 2010 spending on public safety was 1.4 percent of 2010 GDP.

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