China will make an appropriate increase in its 2019 defence outlay for national security and not pose a threat to other countries, a government spokesperson said on Monday.
The release of China’s defence budget this week will be closely followed worldwide as Beijing rapidly modernises its massive army, shedding numbers but building aircraft carriers and stealth jets besides shoring up military infrastructure along the border with India.
“A proper increase in the defence budget is needed to safeguard national security and transform China’s military with Chinese features,” Zhang Yesui, a spokesperson for China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) said at a briefing on Monday.
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The NPC will commence on Tuesday when Premier Li Keqiang reads out the government work report and announces the economic outlook for 2019.
The budget will be scrutinised in India – it is possibly the only official number related to the country’s military available in the public domain.
Though much below that of the US, China’s defence budget is already more than three times that of India’s. It grew at 8.1 percent in 2018, crossing the 1 RMB trillion-mark (around $175 billion) for the first time in 2018.
The same year, India’s was around the $ 50 billion-mark.
According to a report in the Al Jazeera television channel, US President Donald Trump has backed plans to request $750 billion from Congress for American defence spending in 2019.
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Beijing doesn’t give a breakdown of its defence budget, raising questions of transparency.It is widely believed that China’s actual spending on defence exceeds the allocation that is made public.
Zhang said China only spent about 1.3 percent of the gross domestic product on its military last year, compared with more than two percent for “certain major developed countries”.
Last year, official media said though China’s defence budget had been increased to USD 175 billion, slightly higher than the previous two years, the growth rate for the third time had dipped into the single digit since 2013, following 7.6 per cent in 2016 and 7 percent in 2017.
“China’s limited defence spending, which is for safeguarding its national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, poses no threat to any other country,” official news agency, Xinhua said in a report on Monday.
“”Whether a country is a military threat to others or not is not determined by its increase in defence expenditure, but by the foreign and national defence policies it adopts,” spokesperson Zhang said.
Earlier this year, President Xi Jinping—who heads the powerful Central Military Commission—ordered the Chinese armed forces to enhance their combat readiness from a new starting point and open new ground for developing a strong military.
“The world is facing a period of major changes never seen in a century, and China is still in an important period of strategic opportunity for development,” Xi said at a meeting of the military’s top brass, warning that various risks and challenges were on the rise.
The Chinese president said the entire armed forces should have a correct understanding of China’s security and development trends, enhance their awareness of danger, crisis, and war, and make solid efforts on combat preparations in order to accomplish the tasks assigned by the (Communist Party of China) Party and the people,” Xi said.
Mar 04, 2019 17:48 IST
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