China announces plans to increase military spending by 7 per cent

Beijing reduces rate of defence investment in wake of slowing economic growth

Benjamin Kentish
Saturday 04 March 2017 15:47
Comments
China's military spending is still only a quarter of that of the US
China's military spending is still only a quarter of that of the US

China is to increase its military spending by around 7 per cent this year, its government has announced – less than the 10 per cent by which Donald Trump has vowed to grow the US military budget.

The slowdown in defence spending in China reflects what experts say is the Chinese government reducing its military ambitions in the wake of faltering economic growth.

The 7 per cent rise - if there were no changes - would be the smallest since 2010 and marks the second year in a row that the country will not increase its military spending by a double-digit percentage.

It follows nearly 20 years of double-digital budget increases as China sought to rapidly expand its military might.

The actual figure for defence spending in 2017 will be announced on Sunday when the Chinese parliament beings its annual session.

Government spokesperson Fu Ying, who announced the increase, re-iterated the Chinese government’s insistence that its military is purely for defensive purposes.

"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. Which one has China caused?" she said.

"We advocate dialogue for peaceful resolutions, while at the same time, we need to possess the ability to defend our sovereignty and interests," Ms Fu said. "The strengthening of Chinese capabilities benefits the preservation of peace and security in this region, and not the opposite."

Recent additions to China’s military arsenal include aircraft carriers, long-range bombers and its first overseas military base, located in Djibouti in East Africa.

Earlier this week, Donald Trump promised to increase US military spending by 10 per cent, adding $54 billion to take the overall budget to $603 billion. In contrast, even China’s 7 per cent rise would only bring its military spending to about a quarter of that of the US.

"The gap in capabilities with the U.S. is 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.

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

Some military sources said the increase was too small.

“It's not enough," a source with ties to senior Chinese officers told Reuters. "A lot of people in the military won't be happy with this."

Donald Trump's closest advisor Steve Bannon thinks there will be war with China in the next few years

Takashi Kawakami, professor of international politics at Japan's Takushoku University, said the small rate of increase showed China was taking a cautious approach with the new U.S. government, especially as Presidents Trump and Xi could meet soon.

"There was a view that China would increase its defence budget in line with the rise of the defence budget in the United States”, he said. “But the fact China kept it at this level means it's in a wait-and-see mode regarding the Trump administration."

Alexander Neill, a senior fellow for Asia-Pacific security for the International Institute for Strategic Studies based in Singapore, said the slowdown in Chinese military spending reflects "the new normal – an acknowledgement that Chinese growth is plateauing as a whole.”

Additional reporting by agencies

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in