China plans to increase the defence budget by 7.5 per cent in 2010, breaking several years of annual double-digit growth in military spending.
This 7.5 per cent increase is half of China’s planned 14.9 per cent increase in the defence budget last year.
Some foreign analysts were surprised by the figure after over two decades of nearly unbroken double-digit rises in China’s defence budget, and said the announced numbers were unlikely to show the growing power’s real military spending.
“All the evidence suggests that they are on a very powerful trajectory of expansion in substantive terms, and they seem to use this figure for political purposes almost, to send signals,” said Ron Huisken, a China defence expert at the Australian National University in Canberra.
Chinese parliamentary spokesman Li Zhaoxing said the increase would bring the country’s defence budget for the year to 532.1 billion yuan ($77.95 billion), or 37.1 billion yuan more than what was actually spent on defence in 2009.
That figure included spending by local governments on civil militia. The central government’s core military budget was 518.6 billion, which Li said also marked a 7.5 per cent increase on spending in that category.
The announcement came after quarrels with the United States over human rights, Internet censorship, Tibet and Washington’s arms sales to Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own.
The budget for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) showed Beijing was not courting confrontation, spokesman Li told a news conference a day ahead of the opening of China’s annual parliament.
The People’s Liberation Army or PLA, which grew from a peasant army in 1927 to become the world’s biggest 2.3 million strong military force, is the world’s biggest army.
India has the world’s third-largest military force after the US, with a defence budget less than half the size of China’s.