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China skips announcement of national defence budget

Years of double-digit percentage growth have given China the world’s second largest defence budget after the United States, which is in a class of its own with a proposed budget of $716 billion for next year.

world Updated: Mar 06, 2018 23:19 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
China,Chinese Army,Xi Jinping
This file picture taken on July 30, 2017 shows Chinese soldiers carrying the flags of (L to R) the Communist Party, the state, and the People's Liberation Army during a military parade at the Zhurihe training base in China.(AFP File Photo)

China on Sunday kept its defence budget under wraps, breaking from the tradition of announcing it a day ahead of the opening of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s legislature.

Zhang Yesui, NPC spokesperson, did not reveal the figure at a press conference but said China has increased its spending on military by modest margins in recent years. China’s defence budget, in terms of its share of gross domestic product and per capita spending, is lower than other major countries, Zhang said. A country’s defence budget needs to fit the nation’s economic development and national security, he added.

China has increased its defence expenditure in recent years mostly to update arms and equipment, improve soldiers’ living conditions and training environment, Zhang said, adding, “China is committed to a path of peaceful development, and pursues a defence policy that is defensive in nature.”

“China’s development will not pose a threat to other countries.”

The announcement of China’s expenditure on defence is closely followed as an indicator of its strategic intent as Beijing expands its influence worldwide.

The defence outlay will be particularly important for several of its neighbours – including India – with whom China has territorial disputes.

It is also widely believed that China’s actual spending on defence exceeds the allocation that is made public.

In 2017, China had increased its defence budget by 7%, the lowest increase in seven years and second year in a row in which the hike was below the double digit mark.

In real terms, the defence budget of the world’s largest armed forces, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) last year was around $ 146 billion-mark, a quarter of the US defence outlay.

The defence budget numbers are released in Premier’s work report released on the first day of the NPC.

Premier Li Keqiang, however, did not include the number in his work report at last year’s NPC session.

The figure was released a day later by the official Xinhua news agency.

The defence budget this year would be around 8 to 9% higher this year, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert told the state-run Global Times on Sunday.

Even if this year’s defence budget increases by 10% from the previous year, it would only account for 1.6% of GDP, much lower than the widely-expected 2%, Song added.

President Xi Jinping, who is also the chairperson of the Central Military Commission, has carried out major reforms of the armed forces including reorganising the military zones into five command theatres.

First Published: Mar 04, 2018 15:08 IST