China sets $175bn military budget

China sets $175bn military budget

The central government's military outlays are expected to rise 8.1 percent to 1.11 trillion yuan ($175 billion) this year, the Chinese Ministry of Finance said Monday in its annual report to the national legislative session in Beijing.

China's announcement of growth target comes at a time when it has been engaged in a trade conflict with the United States after President Donald Trump said he would impose hefty tariffs on imported steel and aluminium to protect USA producers.

"China should take worldwide concerns seriously, increase its defence budget's transparency and give up its targeted military deployment towards Taiwan in order to avoid an escalation of regional tension", it said.

Prime Minister Li Keqiang also set a target of 6.5% growth for the economy.

As a proportion of the economy, China's military spending is around 1.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2016, compared with around 3.3 percent for the United States, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

China's military build-up has rattled the nerves of its neighbors, particularly because it has taken an increasingly assertive stance in its territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas and over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own.

China said defense spending would increase at the quickest pace in three years, as President Xi Jinping pursues a "world-class" military capable of projecting force further from the country's coasts.

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China's defence budget is so large now that double-digit annual percentage increases are no longer necessary, said military commentator Song Zhongping.

Rivals such as the U.S., Japan and India should be less anxious at the moderate rate of budget growth, although they "won't feel happy" to see rapid enhancements in China's air, naval, missile and anti-satellite capabilities, said Ni, a professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

Its military has one operational carrier - the Liaoning - a Soviet-era vessel bought from Ukraine that was refitted and commissioned in 2012.

Observers say China's actual military spending this year will be larger than the amount released. It also launched a new class of destroyer.

One senior Asia diplomat, speaking before the announcement was made, said the real rise would likely be at least double what China revealed considering efforts to build up the industrial military complex and deepen military-civilian integration.

USA warships, meanwhile, regularly conduct "freedom of navigation" operations near the islands to challenge China's territorial claims. "That said, its maritime presence is certainly growing".

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