China’s defence budget will for the first time cross $200 billion with the government on Friday announcing a 6.8% hike in defence spending for 2021.The announcement was made at the start of the week-long session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the Communist Party-controlled legislature, in Beijing.The hike is only a slight raise from the 6.6% increase announced in 2020 amid the pandemic, which was the lowest increase in many years. The defence budget saw double-digit increases until 2015, and was hiked 7.5% in 2019.The budget for 2021 was announced as 1.35 trillion yuan ($209 billion), up from 1.27 trillion Yuan ($179 billion) last year. This will take China’s defence spending to more than four times India’s $49.75 billion budget, not including pensions. India’s budget last month announced a modest 1.48% hike in total defence spending to ₹4.78 lakh crore ($65.7 billion) including pensions, or ₹3.62 lakh crore ($49.75 billion) minus pensions. India also announced a record 18.5% increase in capital outlay to ₹1.35 lakh crore ($18.4 billion).
In China, spending on pensions is not entirely from the defence budget, as it is also shared by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and provincial (state) governments, although part of the budget’s personnel allocation goes towards pensions. China also spends less than India on import acquisitions, and its outlay on capital is harder to ascertain considering the defence budget does not fully account the military spends by China’s vast military industries, most of which are state-controlled.China’s defence spending has in recent years evolved to reflect its on-going modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), with a shift away from the traditionally dominant army and a greater share going to the PLA Navy, the Rocket Force which is in charge of missiles, and the Strategic Support Force, which includes cyber warfare.
This year, China will launch its third aircraft carrier, which will be its second homegrown one. The PLA Navy in 2019 unveiled its first homegrown aircraft carrier, and two more are under construction.
Speaking at the opening of the NPC, Premier Li Keqiang said the Communist Party would, targeting its goals for the PLA’s centenary in 2027, "continue to enhance the political loyalty of the armed forces, strengthen them through reform, science and technology and the training of capable personnel, and run them in accordance with the law.” China has also announced a target for the PLA to complete its modernisation by 2050, by when it hopes its military will be “world class”, a reference some Chinese analysts say means a military on par with the U.S.
"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,” Mr. Li said.