China defence spending to rise 'around 7pc'
- Author: Kyle Warner Mar 05, 2017,
Mar 05, 2017, 1:00
Last year, with the economy slowing, the defence budget recorded its lowest increase in six years, 7.6 percent, the first single-digit rise since 2010 after a almost unbroken two-decade run of double-digit increases.
The announcement comes days after US President Donald Trump announced he planned a $54bn hike in American defence spending.
The new US administration is seeking a $54 billion, or 10 percent, increase in defense spending for the next budget year starting in October from the level in the current year.
Total defense spending would account for about 1.3 percent of projected gross domestic project in 2017, said Fu Ying, spokeswoman for the legislature.
China's economic growth target for 2017 is expected to be lowered to around 6.5 percent from last year's 6.5-7 percent when Premier Li Keqiang gives his work report to parliament.
In 2016, the country raised its defense spending by 7.6 percent - 954.35 billion yuan ($138.4 billion).
She added that "strengthening of Chinese capabilities benefits the preservation of peace and security in this region, and not the opposite". With Beijing pressing its maritime claims in the South China Sea, including building military infrastructure on man-made islands, its plans are closely watched.
"President Xi Jinping and President Trump have had two direct phone calls, and the message was very clear, which is that there must be more cooperation between China and the United States so we become good partners", she said, according to the New York Times.
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But recent reports that Beijing may be militarising artificial islands in the South China Sea have raised concerns in Washington, which has long argued China's activities in the region threaten freedom of navigation through the strategically vital waterways, sending ships and aircraft to pass close to the growing islands. "The most ideal is 12 per cent", Hongguang said as quoted by The South China Morning Post.
This year's two sessions come at a time of heightened tension between China and United States; ties between the two countries have been bumpy since Trump's victory in the presidential election in November.
Trump on Monday proposed a almost 10% increase in military spending for the coming year. Beijing has never renounced its vow to use force to take control of the island it considers its own territory, and tensions have risen since the election a year ago of independence-leaning Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. "There's a huge difference between China and the USA in capability".
Seeking a more streamlined fighting force, China plans to complete the cutting of 300,000 military personnel by the end of the year, shifting the emphasis away from the land forces and toward the navy, air and rocket units.
Fu turned those accusations back on the US, saying the strategically vital waterway through which about $5 trillion in trade passes each year was basically calm.
This week influential state-run tabloid the Global Times called for a rise of at least 10 percent to deal with the uncertainty brought by Trump, and a retired senior general told Hong Kong and Taiwan media that 12 percent would be needed to match the USA rise.
Future trends in the region "will depend on U.S. intentions vis-a-vis the region and USA activities [which] to a certain extent set the barometer for the situation here", Fu said.