China Boosts Spending to Bolster Military Capabilities

China raises 2018 defence budget by 8.1 percent

The 8.1% increase is higher than last year's announcement, when China upped military spending by 7% over the previous year.

In a budget report issued at the opening of parliament's annual meeting, the National People'S Congress (NPC), Chinese authorities said the defense budget will increase to 1.11 trillion yuan (€142 billion, $175 billion).

It also comes amid increased tension with the US, as Washington beefs up its naval presence in the South China Sea and Beijing has shown an increasing willingness to flex its muscles there, much to the chagrin of many of its maritime neighbors.

All three of China's sea forces - the navy, coast guard and maritime militia - are the largest of their types by number of ships, allowing them to "maintain presence and influence in vital seas", according to Andrew S. Erickson of the U.S. Naval War College's China Maritime Studies Institute. The budget grew 7.6% in 2016, and 7% in 2017.

China's defence budget is so large now that double-digit annual percentage increases are no longer necessary, said military commentator Song Zhongping.

Premier Li Kequiang said in his opening address that China will "advance all aspects of military training and war preparedness, and firmly and resolvedly safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests".

"China is committed to a path of peaceful development and China pursues a defense policy that is defensive in nature", Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui, a spokesman for the National People's Congress, said at a briefing Sunday.

The armed forces are required to meet new national security demands, fulfill new missions, offer strategic support for national rejuvenation and catch up with global military development, which requires continuous input, Chen said.

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Only the US outpaces China in military spending, with Washington's defense outlays running about four times Beijing's, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

China spent about 1.02 trillion yuan (about $161.87 billion) in national defense in 2017, about 1.3 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Besides approving the defense budget, NPC deputies are also expected to appoint Xi to a second term as president and repeal constitutional term limits requiring him to step down in 2023.

The defence spending figure is closely watched around the world for clues to China's strategic intentions as it develops new military capabilities, including stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles.

China's defense spending as a share of GDP and the budget also remains lower than that of other major nations, he said.

Its military spending per capita is also lower than other major countries, Zhang said. "A large part is to make up for past short falls to upgrade the equipment, improve the welfare of the men and women and living conditions at the grassroots levels", he said.

That move follows complaints that China isn't open enough about how it funds its military or what the goals of its massive campaign of expansion and modernization are.

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