China continues trend of sinking defense budget growth

Image South China Sea

Image South China Sea

The exact figure was to be provided by Premier Li Keqiang during his address at the beginning of the congress' opening session Sunday morning.

Government spokesperson Fu Ying, who announced the increase, re-iterated the Chinese government's insistence that its military is purely for defensive purposes.

But its military capabilities remain modest compared to the United States, Fu said, adding that concerns about the country's military buildup are unwarranted.

Gen. Wang Hongguang, a retired deputy commander of the former Nanjing Military Command, called for a 12 percent increase of the Chinese defense budget in view of United States defense spending plans. The budget grew by 7.6 percent a year ago and 10.1 percent in 2015.

"It's not enough", a source with ties to senior Chinese officers told the Reuters news agency. "We must not give Trump an excuse to accuse China of currency manipulation", Yu said.

At the press conference, Fu said China's defense budget in recent years has been in line with China's economic development and defense needs. The percentage increases do not track in US dollar figures because of variations in the exchange rate.

Last year, China increased its defence spending by 7.6 per cent, allocating about 954 billion yuan (around Dollars 143.7 billion), the lowest increase in six years. By 2025, China would outspend all other states in the Asia-Pacific combined, the consultancy predicted.

China is to increase its military spending by around 7 per cent this year, its government has announced - less than the 10 per cent by which Donald Trump has vowed to grow the USA military budget.

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According to data from the World Bank, China's 2016 growth would account for about a third of world growth, larger than the contribution from any other country.

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 US rise.

Wang, also vice chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the CPPCC National Committee, said China's overall economy is on upward trajectory and steady performance.

Ms. Fu said recent talks with China's neighbors had eased those tensions, a position Beijing has repeated often in recent weeks as Mr. Trump has suggested he will take a tougher approach toward Beijing on trade and territorial issues.

Along with defending China's frontiers, the self-governing island of Taiwan remains a military priority for the 2.3 million-member People's Liberation Army, the world's largest standing military. The last double- digit rise was in 2015 at 11 per cent.

Although there are concerns about China's increasing military strength, especially in light of growing tension in the South China Sea region, Fu rightly said that the United States military was still vastly superior to that of China.

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.

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.

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