Unveiling plans to make it a “maritime power”, China today hiked defence budget by 10.1 per cent this year to about USD 145 billion aimed at developing high-tech weapons amid unease among its neighbours over its growing military might and territorial ambitions.
Presenting annual budget to China’s legislature National People’s Congress (NPC), Premier Li Keqiang announced an increase of 10.1 per cent to the defence budget amounting to 888.6898 billion Yuan which at the prevailing exchange of rate of 6.13 worked out to USD 145.68 billion.
The hike - a double-digit annual increase for the fifth year in a row - is over USD 100 billion more than that of India’s USD 40 billion allocated for this year.
In addition to the defence budget, Li also announced a 4.3 per cent increase to the public security budget amounting to 154.192 billion (USD 25.15 billion).
The hike in defence spending marks an increase of about USD 12 billion over last year’s USD 132 billion, making China the second largest military spender after the US which spent about USD 600.4 billion in 2013.
Chinese official media, however, said the hike is the lowest in five years as the second largest economy confronts mounting pressure in the face of an economic slowdown. The Chinese economy grew 7.4 per cent in 2014, registering the weakest annual expansion in more than two decades.
The government lowered this year’s growth target to approximately seven per cent, brewing new concerns that the world’s second largest economy is losing steam.
“Building a solid national defence and strong armed forces is fundamental to safeguarding China’s sovereignty, security, and developmental interests,” Li said in his speech cheered by about 3,000 deputies of the NPC, known as the rubber stamp Parliament.
Li said China will comprehensively strengthen modern logistics, step up national defence research and development of new- and high-technology weapons and equipment, and develop defence-related science and technology industries.
In his speech, he also said China should move closer to “achieving the goal” of a becoming a maritime power.
“China is a major maritime country. We need to draw up and implement a strategic maritime plan, develop marine economy, protect the marine environment, resolutely safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests, properly handle maritime disputes, actively expand bilateral and multilateral maritime cooperation and move close to achieve the goal of building China into a maritime power,” he said.
China is in the process of developing two more aircraft carriers in addition to the one launched in 2012, which is still undergoing advanced trials, media reports have said.