China says 2017 military budget to expand around 7%

China's slowing economy
China says 2017 military budget to expand around 7%

05 March, 2017

Beijing's decision to opt for a low increase in military expenditure contrasts sharply with United States president Donald Trump's recent announcement that he will push for a 10 percent increase in defence spending.

The exact figure was to be provided by Premier Li Keqiang during his address at the beginning of the congress' opening session Sunday morning.

Concerning disputes between China and neighboring countries, Fu said China advocates dialogue and peaceful solutions in addressing those issues.

"China's increasing capability will help maintain peace and stability in the [South China Sea] region, not the opposite".

The White House has proposed a 10% increase in military spending to US$603 billion, even though the United States has wound down major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is already the world's preeminent military power.

Beijing and Washington have clashed over the disputed South China Sea, with the USA conducting what it calls "freedom of navigation" operations in the waters.

The country said it has no plans to militarize the islands, but defended its right to build so-called necessary military facilities for defensive purposes.

"You should ask them what their intentions are", Fu told reporters, adding that China has "never inflicted harm on other countries".

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.

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The new increase could be the country's slowest defense budget rise in at least a decade.

China is also dealing with increased tensions in the Korean Peninsula, where the US and South Korea are preparing to deploy a missile-defence system that China has long criticized.

Wang Hongguang, former deputy commander of Nanjing military area command, also expressed concerns about Trump's potential impact on relations with China, and is watching closely whether the reasonably smooth talks between the USA president and State Councillor Yang Jiechi would signal any turnaround.

Chinese defence spending would stay at around 1.3 per cent of GDP, she added.

"The gap in capabilities with the enormous, but China's military development and construction will continue in keeping with our need to defend our national sovereignty and security", Ms 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 causalities and loss of property, so many refugees destitute and homeless". The South China Sea, a waterway of strategic importance, has been at the center of tensions between multiple nations contesting waterway and offshore resources. "American actions in the South China Sea have a definite significance in terms of which way the winds blow", she said, adding that the "gap in capabilities" with the U.S. is "enormous".

Fu said the US was likely "concerned that China may catch up with the terms of (military) capabilities". "There is a huge gap between China and the United States in capability".

Future trends in the region "will depend on U.S. intentions vis-a-vis the region and USA activities [which] to a certain extent set the barometer for the situation here", Fu said.

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