China’s BRI: Stalking Horse for Military Expansion?
US study says Beijing will use BRI to expand military logistics bases
By: Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat
China’s rapidly growing military budget carries deep concerns for Indonesia given Beijing’s growing appetite for control over the entire South China Sea, including the Natuna area, an extensive shallow sea that extends from south of the Riau Islands, east of the Lingga Regency, and west of Borneo.
Twice in 2019 and 2020, Indonesia has had to scramble its forces to warn the intruding People’s Liberation Army Coast Guard that it was operating in Indonesian sovereign waters. Over the past few weeks, Beijing has shown particular belligerence involving Indonesia’s ASEAN neighbors, sending as many as 200 “fishing boats” actually crewed by military personnel to near Whitson Reef off the island of Palawan, which is well inside the Philippine exclusive economic zone. Not long after that, 12 PLA jets overflew the East Malaysian state of Sarawak, prompting diplomatic protests from both countries.
China’s increasing military budget, which is expected to increase officially to RMB1.35 trillion (US $209 billion) in 2020, is a dramatic expansion over 2019 at US$ 177 billion. It is in line with Beijing’s expanding Belt and Road Initiative spending program although the official defense figure is believed to be far below actual spending, which most military analysts put as high as the equivalent of US$499 billion annually…