China is secretly spending up to $65 billion on defense acquisitions, making up around 30 percent of the world’s unofficial military spending, according to a November 2015 defense and security report by Transparency International, a Berlin-based nongovernmental organization. The report, which gathers military information and ranks national defenses by least to most corruptible, claims that China’s military risk to be corrupted is “very high” to “critical,” and suggests that it could lead to greater instability and distrust in the region.
Secretive spending, defined by the report, is military expenditure where no meaningful details are released either to the public or the country’s parliament.
“No information is available on acquisition planning, and only broad details are disclosed on actual and planned purchases,” noted the report on China’s defense spending in its Asia-Pacific Government Defense Anti-Corruption Index, adding: “The Chinese public would gain more knowledge about their nation’s defense capabilities through reading foreign press reporting.”
While the report only suggests that China is spending up to $65 billion extra on defense, topping up its disclosed $130 billion budget for 2015, there are few details about what the extra money is being spent on. One reason that China’s military expenditure is so unclear, notes a Defense One report, is that the nation’s army has been able to generate substantial side revenue by establishing corporations or by commercializing the vast amounts of land entrusted to it.
Given the report’s details, China represents around 12 percent of global spending on defense but is still dwarfed by that of the U.S. In 2016, the U.S. committed $607 billion to defense spending, around 34 percent of the global total. However, that gap in military spending could close completely in the next 35 years, according to a Guardian report. As China’s gross domestic product continues to grow, military spending is going up by around 12.2 percent of GDP per year on average, meaning that China is on target eventually to overtake the U.S., where military spending as a percentage of GDP continues to fall.