China says it needs a ‘proper increase’ in defence spending

HONG KONG • China said it would need to increase its military spending to protect itself and that it doesn’t pose a threat to other countries.

“A proper increase in the defence budget is needed to safeguard national security and transform China’s military with Chinese features,” Zhang Yesui, a spokesman for China’s National People’s Congress (NPC), said at a briefing yesterday in Beijing ahead of the start of the annual meeting.

The country’s defence outlay accounted for 1.3% of last year’s GDP, Zhang said.

He said China is committed to a peaceful defence policy. The government’s estimate on annual military spending increases will likely be released at the NPC today.

Zhang said China’s defence budget has maintained single-digit growth since 2016, down from double-digit growth the previous five years.

The country’s military budget rose 8.1% to 1.11 trillion yuan (RM672.53 billion) last year, as President Xi Jinping works to complete the modernisation of China’s armed forces by 2035, and to build a world-class military capable of winning wars across all theaters by 2050.

His success will determine the ability of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to mount a serious challenge to US interests in Asia over the coming decades.

The military spending figure is one of the few pieces of official data available as the US and China’s rivals in Asia seek to gauge the development of the PLA. — Bloomberg