Why are Chinese military budgets skyrocketing? Military equipment is poor; military salaries are inadequate; and "the Taiwan issue" persists. Moreover, China's economy is growing at nine percent per year, and its military budget therefore cannot be compared to that of, say, Mongolia or Myanmar, Wang Jisi said. But he said we should expect more transparency both within China and with China's relations to the world.
The issue of transparency in China came up last week in Chicago at the ISA, too, and was the central theme of a 2005 article I wrote in the Asia Times Online with Larry Wortzel. We argued:
"Nations that believe in the principles of open, accountable and transparent government should encourage China to move toward a civil society. Such a change would respond to the values and principles these nations live by, and would also reduce apprehension that there are secret threats behind China's policies."
Last week at ISA, a panel of Chinese scholars argued that China sees military value in "concealment." I could feel Sun Tzu's spirit in the room (read Sun Tzu's passages on concealment here). I asked the panel, "Which is more credible? A military that can be observed or a military that cannot be observed, especially when it comes to nuclear strategy?" The scholars answered that in fact China wants "translucence"---it can be seen but only through shadows and mist.