A finance official responding to questions over China’s central government budget, under deliberation at the National People’s Congress (NPC) this week, seems to have created only more confusion over the country’s spending on internal security.
Facing questions from Southern Metropolis Daily, a commercial newspaper based in the southern city of Guangzhou, a representative from the Ministry of Finance rejected reports from international media last year saying spending on domestic security in China had outpaced defense spending, and that these expenditures were being used for “stability preservation” — referring to the policy of maintaining social stability by mobilizing domestic security forces to put down rising incidents of social unrest.
Questioned by the newspaper about public security spending, which in the current draft budget under review at the NPC stands at 701.76 billion yuan against defense spending of 670.27 billion yuan, the Ministry of Finance representative said that “public security” included spending on such things as public transportation and construction safety.
The representative accused foreign media of “intentionally misconstruing” the budget numbers.
During last year’s session of the National People’s Congress, international media reported that China’s spending on internal security had for the first time surpassed military spending. These numbers, however, were never widely reported by Chinese media last year.
Writing on Sina Weibo today, Xie Wen (谢文), an IT expert and former general manager for Yahoo! China, asked how expenditures like public transportation and sanitation could possibly be included in the central government budget for public safety:

I don’t understand. Is public transportation public safety? Is public health not budgeted under health? Is construction safety not included within construction budgets?

[ABOVE: Urban management personnel, charged with maintaining “public safety” in China’s cities, hustle a balloon seller in a video posted to China’s web.
A translation of the report from Southern Metropolis Daily follows:

Stability Preservation Surpasses 700 Billion Yuan? Ministry of Finance: This is a Misrepresentation
Southern Metropolis Daily
March 7, 2012
Wang Haiyan (王海艳)
Beijing — Foreign media have reported that today China’s budget for stability preservation has already surpassed 700 billion yuan, more than its defense budget (军费预算). Yesterday, someone from the Ministry of Finance refuted this, saying that these expenditures were for public safety (公共安全), and that foreign media had misrepresented [the figures].
Yesterday, reporters from Southern Metropolis Daily consulted the “Report on the Situation of Central and Local Budget Implementation in 2011, and Draft Central and Local Budget for 2012” (关于2011年中央和地方预算执行情况与2012年中央和地方预算草案的报告), to be discussed at the National People’s Congress, and discovered that the section “Situation in Preparation of National Public Financing Expenditures for 2012” (2012年全国公共财政支出预算安排情况) states that this year the national defense budget will stand at 670.27 billion yuan, and the budget for public safety (公共安全) will stand at 701.76 billion yuan.
A relevant person with the Ministry of Finance explained that public safety includes the categories of public health (公共卫生), public transportation (公共交通), construction safety (建筑安全) and many others, and this cannot all be construed as stability preservation spending. For example, expenditures for strengthening the food safety inspection and detection capacity of grassroots regulators, and for promoting food safety protections, are also included in the budget. Foreign media, [they said], had deliberately misrepresented [the figures], intentionally building up [the story].
This [ministry] person said that with the exception of the United States and France, expenditures on public safety by most countries in the world surpass military spending. Therefore, [they said], it is normal for spending on public safety in China to surpass military spending.

David Bandurski

CMP Director

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