China plans to increase its defence budget by 14.9 per cent in 2009, a spokesman said in Beijing on Wednesday.
The planned defence budget is 480.686 billion yuan ($70 billion), a rise of 62.482 billion yuan from last year, Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the second session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), told a press conference.
Defence spending accounts for 6.3 per cent of the country's total fiscal expenditure in 2009, slightly down from the level of previous years, Li said.
The budget rise follows a 17.6 per cent increase in 2008 compared with the previous year.
Li said the increased spending is mainly for better treatment of servicemen, adding that more money would be used to adjust the subsidies and salaries to lift their living standards.
The increased budget will also be spent on the purchase of equipment and construction of facilities to enhance the ability of the military force to defend the country in the age of information, Li said.
The capacity of the armed forces for disaster relief and anti-terror operations shall also be enhanced. Spending on the reconstruction of military facilities damaged in the 8 magnitude earthquake that struck China's Sichuan province on May 12 last year was also listed in this year's defence budget, he said.
Li described the defence budget growth as "modest", saying that China's defence expenditure was fairly low compared with other countries, considering the size of China's population and territory.
"China's defence expenditure accounted for 1.4 per cent of it's GDP in 2008. The ratio was 4 per cent for the US, and more than 2 percent for the United Kingdom, France and other countries.
"China's limited military force is mainly for safeguarding our sovereignty and territory and forms no threat to any other country," he said.
This year's draft national budget would be deliberated at the NPC annual session due to open in Beijing later Wednesday.
Li said the Chinese government began to submit an annual report on military expenditure to the United Nations from 2007.
"So the country has no so-called 'hidden military expenditure'," Li said.
In a white paper on China's national defence in 2008 that was issued in January this year, China said its defence expenditure had always been kept at a reasonable and appropriate level.
In the past three decades of reform and opening up, China has insisted that defence development should be both subordinated to and in the service of the country's overall economic development, according to the white paper.
"Although the share of China's defence expenditure in its GDP increased, that in the state financial expenditure continued to drop on the whole," says the paper.
In the past two years, the increased part of China's defence expenditure was primarily used to increase the salaries and benefits of servicemen, compensate for price rises and push forward the revolution in military affairs, according to the paper.
"Both the total amount and per-service-person share of China's defence expenditure remain lower than those of some major powers," it says.