China to grow at more than 6% in 2021; defence outlay $200bn for the first time
China has set its annual economic growth rate for 2021 at above 6%, Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday, as the world’s second largest economy, battered last year by the Covid-19 pandemic, shows signs of rapid recovery.
Last year, for the first time in decades, China didn’t forecast its gross domestic product (GDP) growth because of local and global economic uncertainties triggered by the pandemic.
“As a general target, China’s growth rate has been set at over 6% for this year,” Li said in his 2021 work report, which he read out at the inaugural session of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
“In setting this target, we have taken into account the recovery of economic activity,” Li said.
China’s GDP expanded 2.3% last year, the only major economy to see growth.
Separately, China’s annual defence budget will maintain single-digit growth for a sixth consecutive year by increasing 6.8% in 2021, according to the draft budget report.
For the first time, China’s official defence budget has crossed the $200 billion mark.
“This year’s planned defence spending will be about 1.35 trillion yuan ($209 billion),” news agency Xinhua reported, adding that China’s defence budget is about one quarter of the US, which is $740.5 billion for the 2021 fiscal year.
Last month, India increased its defence spending by about 1%; military spending increased to ₹3.47 trillion ($47.4 billion), up from ₹3.43 trillion in the previous financial year.
India’s expenditure on defence remains less than a fourth of China’s as the two countries cautiously emerge from a nine-month-long military standoff in eastern Ladakh.
Delivering the work report, Li said this year the government would strengthen the armed forces “through reform, science and technology and the training of capable personnel”.
Premier Li said the government would “thoroughly implement Xi Jinping’s thinking on strengthening the armed forces and the military strategy for the new era, (and) ensure the party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces.”
“We will boost military training and preparedness across the board, make overall plans for responding to security risks in all areas and for all situations, and enhance the military’s strategic capacity to protect the sovereignty, security and development interests of our country,” Li was quoted as saying in a translation of his remarks.
“We will improve the layout of the defence-related science, technology and industry, and enhance the defence mobilisation system,” he said.
He added that the country has drawn up the draft ‘Outline for the 14th Five Year Plan (2021-2025) for Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives through the Year 2035’.
Li was quoted as saying by the state media that China had accomplished the major goals and tasks of the 13th financial year and made a giant stride towards the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
The country’s GDP increased from less than 70 trillion yuan ($10.8 trillion) to over 100 trillion yuan.
“Its entire rural poor population, 55.75 million in number, was lifted out of extreme poverty. Over 60 million urban jobs were added, and the world’s largest social security system was established,” said Li.
On self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims is a breakaway region, Li said Beijing remains committed “to promoting the peaceful growth of relations across the Taiwan Strait and China’s reunification”.
“We will remain highly vigilant against and resolutely deter any separatist activity seeking Taiwan independence,” Li said. “We will promote exchanges, cooperation and integrated development across the Taiwan Strait. Together, we can shape a bright future of rejuvenation for our great nation.”
On Hong Kong, he said China will “resolutely guard against and deter” interference by external forces in the special administrative region’s affairs.
He also said that China will ensure the implementation of law and enforcement mechanisms for Hong Kong to safeguard national security, while reaffirming China’s commitment to continue to “fully and faithfully” implement the “one country-two systems” mechanism.
China will improve the systems and mechanisms related to implementing the constitution and the basic law in its special administrative regions, he said.