China's Military Spending Surge Worries Neighbors

China's Military Spending Surge Worries Neighbors

The 2018 defence budget will be 1.11trillion yuan ($175 billion), according to a report issued at the opening of China's annual meeting of parliament.

Speaking on Monday to about 3,000 lawmakers who are widely expected to approve the change in a vote on Sunday, a senior official with the National People's Congress defended the move, claiming it was widely supported by party cadres and the public.

The increased spending has sparked fears in Taiwan that an increasingly hard-line government under Xi could step up military pressure on the democratic island, which has never been ruled by the Communist Party.

Noting that this year's increase was roughly the same as last year's when adjusted for inflation, Shanghai military expert Ni Lexiong said China was seeking to avoid a full-on arms race based on quantity of weapons, choosing instead to invest in high-tech systems and training.

Ma Baozi, from central Henan province, a source of numerous migrant workers who power the country's economy, said of ditching presidential term limits: "It's very good". In the country's vast rural backwaters, however, Xi seems to enjoy more support among the less privileged thanks to his popular war on graft and poverty.

Improving the people's well-being, an objective of economic growth, was also given special mention.

"We can expect that China's defense budget to continue to be subordinated to, and coordinated with, China's economic performance", James Char, a military expert at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, told the AFP news agency.

"There is every indication that China wants to expand what it will call defense capabilities in the South China Sea".

China's military planners have also taken note of the USA shift this year in its threat analysis from terrorism to rivals Russian Federation and China, said Yue Gang, a retired colonel and military analyst.

"Compared with other major powers in the world, China's national defense budget is still small either in terms of its proportion to GDP or the per capita amount of the whole population or of all soldiers", said Chen Zhou.

"What's alarming is not the non-reporting of largely fictitious defence spending figures so much as the Chinese leadership is shedding even the pretense of being open about its military plans", Jennings said in an email to The Associated Press.

In his annual work report, Li also stressed that China had cut its budget deficit target for the first time since 2012, suggesting the government will be more watchful of fiscal spending.

China's state media on Monday said the 2018 defense budget was proportionate and low.

China plans to "actively" resolve debt risk at the local government level and to increase the liquidity of local government bonds, the ministry report said.

He said China defended and contributed to the current United Nations-centred global order, but also said some reforms were necessary.

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