China's Defense Budget to Go Up About 7% in 2017

The fifth session of the 12th NPC is scheduled to open in Beijing on March 5. "This is the requirement for safeguarding our national sovereignty and security", Fu Ying, spokesperson for the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) annual session, told a press conference.

The relatively modest spending increase reflects both China's steady, if not spectacular economic growth, and a security outlook that has changed little in recent years, said Tang Yonghong of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at Xiamen University in southeastern China.

China announced on Saturday it was continuing a trend that has seen its military expenditure grow less and less rapidly over the past few years, despite pressure from some quarters for a boost in spending in face of proposals by Washington to raise the U.S. defense budget for 2017 by 10 percent.

For 2017, China's growth target remain unchanged at 6.5 to 7 percent and this will be put into scrutiny during the gathering of the country's political leaders at the "two sessions" or "lianghui".

However, analysts say China's moderate growth of its military budget is more a reflection of its slowing economy than an attempt to appear non-aggressive on the worldwide scene.

China will raise its defence spending by about 7 percent this year.

Wang Guoqing, for his part, said China's 13th Five-Year Plan launched in 2016 has made a good start to make the country's economic development inclusive. Previous year saw a 7.6 per cent rise over 2015.

US President Donald Trump may not be attending the annual gatherings of China's political elite but uncertainty over his policies is casting a long shadow over the events in Beijing.

Fu said the defense figure - which compared with last year's 7.6 percent hike - will account for around 1.3 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

Fu also noted that China's defense spending accounts for only about 1.3 percent of the country's GDP, compared with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members' pledge to dedicate at least 2 percent of GDP to defense.

Fu did not specify the "disputes" or the country which would "meddle" in Chinese affairs, though she was apparently referring to the South China Sea and East China Sea territorial disputes.

Addressing worldwide concerns over China's growing military strength, Fu said: "Look at the past decade or so; there have been so many conflicts, even wars, around the world resulting in serious, large numbers of casualties and loss of property, so many refugees destitute and homeless".

Yin Zhuo also said China, itself a victim of aggression in the past, would not inflict its own suffering on others.

"We call for a peaceful settlement through dialogue and consultation [of the disputes]". The South China Sea, a waterway of strategic importance, has been at the center of tensions between multiple nations contesting waterway and offshore resources.

Ms Fu said that China's military focus was purely for defence purposes and constituted a force for stability in Asia.

Ms. Fu said recent talks with China's neighbors had eased those tensions, a position Beijing has repeated often in recent weeks as Mr. Trump has suggested he will take a tougher approach toward Beijing on trade and territorial issues.

China has a long-term goal of "becoming a world-class military force, just like America, " he said.

  • Patricia Jimenez