Just days after President Donald Trump announced that he wants to jack up Defense budget of the U.S., China says it will increase its military spending by 7% this year.
The announcement came ahead of the annual National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing.
As the Chinese economy has been expanding, China has started modernizing its armed forces. Although the Chinese military spending remains smaller than the U.S., many China observers argue that the real figure spent by the Chinese could be much higher.
This is the second consecutive year when the percentage increase in the military spending remains below 10%. China’s defense spending has been at or above that figure for nearly two decades until two years ago.
Government Spokeswoman Fu Ying said that the total spending would account for 1.3% of the projected GDP for the year 2017.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will provide the precise figure for the military spending when he addresses the NPC on Sunday.
President Trump said earlier in the week that he wants to boost defense spending by around 10% (or $54 billion to be exact) in his proposed budget for 2018.
China’s military build-up and naval power projection have caused concerns in the region. It has taken an increasingly aggressive stance in territorial disputes.
In the South China Sea, China has been building artificial islands on reefs; the waters are contested by other nations
According to a think-tank, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), satellite images showed late last year that China was developing military defenses on some of the islands.
China has defended its right to build by saying that it has no intention to militarize the islands, but does acknowledge building what it calls “necessary military facilities” required for defense purposes.
Sporadic incidents have occurred between U.S. and Chinese ships in the South China Sea. A Chinese ship seized U.S. Navy underwater drone late last year off the Philippines, but it agreed to return it later.
There have also been stand-offs and clashes of Chinese ships with ships from the Philippines and Vietnam.
In the face of regional disputes with China, Japan signed a record defense budget last December. It also counters North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
Ms. Fu said on Saturday that Beijing advocated peaceful resolutions through dialogue, while at the same time, it needs to possess the ability to defend its interests and sovereignty.
Here’s what she had to say in relation to U.S. spending and concerns.
“Future trends in the region will depend on US intentions vis-a-vis the region and US activities (which) to a certain extent set the barometer for the situation here. Probably fundamentally, the United States is concerned that China may catch up with the United States in terms of capability, but we are a developing country. There is a huge gap between China and the US in capability.”