China raises military budget by 7pc amid slower economic growth

Image South China Sea

By lowering the rate of growth, however, President Xi Jinping is keeping military spending roughly in step with the overall economy and avoiding a costly arms race with the US following President Donald Trump's proposal last month to do away with previous spending limits and increase the Pentagon budget by about 2% from current levels.

China will increase its defence budget by about 7 per cent this year, the smallest boost since 2010, a move which analysts said reflected the nation's continuing economic slowdown.

The 2017 budget's precise figures will be announced Sunday, along with the country's major polices and economic targets.

On the eve of this year's session of the National People's Congress, which starts tomorrow, Fu Ying, the vice minister of the foreign ministry, said: "We call for a peaceful settlement through dialogue and consultation [of the territorial disputes]".

She said the PLA faced daunting tasks in protecting China's territorial sovereignty and maintaining regional security, and preventing foreign forces from intervening in the South China Sea disputes.

"The strengthening of Chinese capabilities benefits the preservation of peace and security in this region, and not the opposite", Ms Fu added.

Lu believes that a four-pronged strategy - moderately prosperous society, all-around in-depth reform, promoting rule of law and strict CPC discipline that has been implemented under Xi leadership placed China as the world's second largest economy next to the United States.

Beijing has also come under criticism for militarizing man-made islands in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety. "China has never brought any harm to any countries".

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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.

"China's military development and construction is to continue".

"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".

This week influential state-run tabloid the Global Times called for a rise of at least 10 percent to deal with the uncertainty brought by Trump, and a retired senior general told Hong Kong and Taiwan media that 12 percent would be needed to match the US rise.

Takashi Kawakami, professor of worldwide politics at Japan's Takushoku University, said the small rate of increase showed China was taking a cautious approach with the new USA government, especially as Presidents Trump and Xi could meet soon. She noted North Atlantic Treaty Organization members were being urged to spend 2% of GDP on defense-a higher level than China.

China's economy is expected to remain the strongest engine for world economic growth in 2017, a spokesperson of the top political advisory body said Thursday.

"Thus the key question we should really ask is whether we are pursuing common security or exclusive security", Fu said.

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

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