China to raise defense budget due to U.S. interference

Mar 05, 2017, 00:58
China to raise defense budget due to U.S. interference

The increase in defence spending was announced by Fu Ying, the spokesperson of China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), ahead of its annual meeting.

Last year, with China's economy slowing, the defense budget recorded its lowest increase in six years, 7.6%, the first single-digit rise since 2010 and following a almost unbroken two-decade run of double-digit increases.

China is following the United States, just 5 days after President Donald Trump called for an increase in the US's defense spending.

The 2017 figure marks the smallest spending increase in seven years and continues a trend of lowered growth amid China's slowing economy.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is expected to announce Sunday, during remarks to the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, that the country will boost its defense budget by 7 percent.

In 2016, the country raised its defense spending by 7.6 percent - 954.35 billion yuan ($138.4 billion).

With troop numbers declining, the 7% increase suggested "funding is still being channeled towards investment in new equipment and the wider process of modernizing" the Chinese military, said Craig Caffrey, an expert on defense budgets at IHS Jane's.

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 went on to say that concerns over navigational freedom in the South China Sea are misleading and uncalled for.

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

A spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs this week downplayed Trump's vow to give the U.S. military a $54 billion boost, saying only that China hoped United States plans would benefit stability.

The relatively modest spending increase reflects both China's steady, if not spectacular economic growth, and a security outlook that has changed little in recent years, said Tang Yonghong of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at Xiamen University in southeastern China.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Sean Spicer vowed in January that the US would stand up to China in the South China Sea.

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. "Which one has China caused?"

A 7 percent rise for this year based on last year's budget would bring the figure to 1.02 trillion yuan, still only a quarter or so of the USA defense budget.

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. In contrast, even China's 7 per cent rise would only bring its military spending to about a quarter of that of the US.

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.

"Thus the key question we should really ask is whether we are pursuing common security or exclusive security", Fu said.