China will hike its defence budget by seven to eight per cent this year from about USD 145 billion in 2015 amidst its worst GDP growth in 26 years and an escalating military showdown with the U.S. in the disputed South China Sea.
“China’s military budget will continue to increase. But the increase will be smaller compared to last year. It will about seven to eight per cent,” Fu Ying, spokesperson for the annual session of the national legislature the National People’s Congress, (NPC) told media here.
The exact figure will be released in the work report to be presented by Premier Li Keqiang to the main legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC) on Saturday during which he will also release the new official target for China’s economy which last year slipped to 6.9 per cent, the lowest in 26 years.
China’s defence budget rose by 10.1 per cent last year amounting to around USD 145 billion based on the exchange rate of the Chinese and U.S. currencies prevailing at that time.
That itself amounted to a three-fold rise against India’s USD 40 billion.
The 7 to 8 per cent increase was expected to widen it further despite the 9.7 per cent increase taking India’s defence budget to Rs 2.58 lakh crore proposed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his latest budget amounting to USD 40 billion. With the exclusion of the pensions the actual Indian defence budget was expected to come down further.
India’s defence budget in dollar terms almost remains the same as last year’s levels due to depreciation of the rupee.
The proposed increase in China’s military budget comes in the backdrop of articles in the state media calling for increase to match the U.S. defence budget of USD 599 billion.
Terming the increase as small, Ms. Fu said in formulating the defence budget China will take into consideration its defence needs, economic development and fiscal position.
She quoted President Xi Jinping’s remarks last year that China’s 2.3 million-strong military will faithfully fulfil its “sacred duty” of protecting the security of the nation and people’s wellbeing and carry out the noble mission of upholding world peace.
“So the ongoing military reform is aimed at achieving this goal,” she said.
“In the context of the United States’ accelerated military deployment in the Asia—Pacific region, its strengthening of military alliances with countries in the region and increased military provocations in the SCS, it is only reasonable to make comparison between China’s military spending and that of the U.S.,” state-run China Daily said in an editorial on Thursday.
“A large military gap between China and the U.S. is unfavourable to world peace, and may spark risky military moves from the U.S., the stronger party,” it said.