Peace can only be preserved by strength, China said on Tuesday, a day before the government was expected to announce an increased annual defence outlay for the year amid rising regional tension over maritime disputes.
China spends the most on defence in the world other than the US and last year, its official defence budget was around $114 billion, an increase of 10.7% from the year before.
Senior diplomat and spokesperson for the National People’s Congress, Fu Ying said China’s military – with 2.3 million personnel, the largest in the world -- is only for defensive purposes but it was ready to respond to any threat to the country’s sovereignty or regional peace.
“But if some countries wish to provoke or wish to damage ... regional peace and the regional order, then we must make a response, and an effective response at that,” Fu told a press conference on the eve of NPC or China’s Parliament’s annual session.
The defence budget is expected to be announced on Wednesday during the inaugural day of the NPC. Fu’s argument in favour of a strong armed forces was a clear indication that China would hike the outlay to expand its military prowess.
China as a major power is responsible for regional peace and security, she said.
But “based on our history and experience, we believe that peace can only be maintained by strength,” Fu said.
China’s military spending has long been cited as a cause for concern in western countries.
“We have heard such concerns... Indeed, certain countries have been selling the idea of China as a major threat,” Fu said, adding: “But we Chinese might ask, can a prosperous country such as China really achieve peace without a strong national defense?”
Commenting on the US pivot to Asia, Fu said although the US had repeatedly stress that it does not have a specific strategy to contain China and that it had not target China, “we still have to see whether its words match its deeds.”
On the issue of territorial and maritime disputes with neighbours, Fu said China advocated peaceful solutions to such disputes with other countries.
“For disputes which cannot be settled in the short term, we could always set them aside, or negotiate joint development plans,” said Fu.
China is locked in dispute with number of countries in the region over the ownership of clusters of uninhabited islands in the South and East China Seas. The dispute with Japan over the islands in the East China Sea has raised both tempers and tension in the region with neither country allowing each other a rhetorical inch on the issue.