China defends hike in military spending as proportionate, low

Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) take part in a military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the army at the Zhurihe military training base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, July 30, 2017. /REUTERS
Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) take part in a military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the army at the Zhurihe military training base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, July 30, 2017. /REUTERS

China's increase in military spending for 2018, the biggest rise in three years, was proportionate and low, and Beijing had not been goaded into an arms race with the United States, state media said on Tuesday.

China

on Monday unveiled an 8.1 per cent rise in defence spending at the opening of parliament, fuelling an ambitious military modernisation programme and making its neighbours, particularly Japan and self-ruled Taiwan, nervous.

In an editorial, the official

China

Daily said the figure had prompted "finger-pointing from the usual suspects".

"China's defence budget is neither the largest in size - it accounts for just one-fourth of the military spending of the United States - nor does it have the fastest growth rate," the English-language newspaper said.

"And if calculated in per capita terms,

China's military lags well behind other major countries."

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The defence spending figure is closely watched worldwide for clues to

China's strategic intentions as it develops new military capabilities, including stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles.

China

insists its military spending is transparent and that it poses a threat to nobody, simply needing to update old equipment and defend its legitimate interests, even as it is increasingly assertive over disputes in the East and South

China

Seas and on self-ruled Taiwan, which

China

claims.

In the East and South

China

Seas,

China

is simply trying to stand up for itself, the

China

Daily said.

"The country has seen its maritime interests being increasingly infringed upon in recent years, and thus seeking a stronger military is natural for it to safeguard its interests and counter any threat that may materialise from the aggressive posturing of others upset by its rise."

China

has seen the United States as its biggest potential security threat, alarming Beijing with freedom of navigation patrols in the South

China

Sea the United States calling

China

a strategic competitor.

US President Donald Trump has proposed the largest military budget since 2011, focused on beefing up the United States' nuclear defences and countering the growing strength of

China

and Russia.

Official Chinese defence spending is about one-quarter that of the United States, though many foreign analysts and diplomats say

China

under-reports the figure.

Widely-read Chinese tabloid the Global Times said if

China

really wanted to expand militarily, the defence budget should really be rising 20 to 30 percent.

"China

has obviously not fallen into the mind-set of engaging in an arms race with the US Otherwise it could totally realise double-digit increases in its defence expenditure," the paper said in its editorial.

US provocations in the South

China

Sea, tension in the Taiwan Strait and the United States, Japan, Australia and India forming alliances demand a rise in spending, it added.

"But Beijing has stuck to its own template and was not disturbed by external factors."

Still,

China

has made no secret of its broader military ambitions, with President Xi Jinping promising last year to makeChina's armed forces world-class by the middle of the century.

Xu Qiliang, a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, which runs the armed forces and Xi heads, told military delegates to parliament that

China

needed to "fully strengthen troop training and war preparedness and raise the ability to win", state news agency Xinhua said late on Monday.

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