China to increase military spending by 7% in 2017

Elbert EdwardsMar 05, 2017

China's announcement of its military budget had been highly anticipated, as the country is involved in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, where China claims an area contested by several other countries.

Fu Ying, spokesperson for the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) annual session, said the increase is in line with China's economic development and defence needs, Xinhua news agency reported.

Yesterday's announcement came just days after US President Donald Trump said he would boost defence spending by about 10 per cent.

Ahead of Sunday's annual National People's Congress, parliament announced China's smallest increase to its military spending in seven years and the second consecutive year below 10 percent.

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.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has estimated that China in 2015 spent 1.9 percent of its GDP on the military, compared with 3.3 percent for the United States.

An official of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) believes China can become a leading world economy in the future if the country will maintain its progress and political stability.

China has territorial disputes with four Asean states - the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei - and tensions have risen in recent years over China's growing assertiveness in its claims, including building artificial islands on reefs it occupies and placing military facilities on them.

Fu dismissed concerns about China's military.

"We advocate dialogue for peaceful resolutions, while at the same time, we need to possess the ability to defend our sovereignty and interests", Ms Fu said.

The country's entire defense spending previous year accounted for less than a quarter of that of the United States.

China points out that, as a developing country with a population of 1.37 billion, its defense spending per capita is a fraction of those of other nations.

Recent satellite imagery indicates China is completing structures meant to house surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) on a series of such artificial landmasses, the Washington think-tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said last week.

While she didn't name the outsiders, Beijing often accuses the US of interfering in the maritime disputes China has in the East China Sea with Japan and in the South China Sea with Vietnam, the Philippines and others.

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.

An American aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, has been patrolling in the South China Sea for much of the past two weeks.

After increasing military spending at double-digit rates for most of the past 25 years, the Chinese government began slowing the pace in recent years as the economy began downshifting.

Future trends in the region "will depend on United States intentions vis-a-vis the region and United States activities (which) to a certain extent set the barometer for the situation here", Fu said.

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