China will increase defense spending by 7.2% this year, slightly exceeding last year’s increase and faster than the government’s modest economic growth forecast, as Premier Li Keqiang called on the military to increase defense spending. combat readiness.
The national budget released on Sunday showed 1.55 trillion yuan (224 billion US dollars) allocated to military spending.
The defense budget will be closely watched by neighbors China and the United States, who are concerned about Beijing’s strategic intentions and the development of its military, especially as tensions have soared in recent years over Taiwan.
In his work report for the annual session of parliament, Li said that military operations, capacity building and combat readiness should be «well coordinated in fulfilling major tasks.»
«Our armed forces, with a focus on the goals for the 100th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army in 2027, should work to carry out military operations, boost combat readiness and enhance military capabilities,» he said at the state of the nation. speech to the legislature largely rubber stamp.
This year’s increase in defense spending marks the eighth consecutive single-digit increase. As in previous years, the expense was not broken down, only the global amount and the rate of increase.
The spending increase is ahead of the economic growth target of around 5%, which is slightly below last year’s target, as the world’s second-largest economy grapples with internal difficulties.
Beijing is nervous about challenges on fronts ranging from Chinese-claimed Taiwan to US naval and air missions in the disputed South China Sea near Chinese-occupied islands.
China staged war games near Taiwan last August to express anger over then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei.
Li Mingjiang, an associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said defense spending that beat economic growth forecasts showed that China anticipates facing increased pressures on its external security environment, especially from the United States and in Taiwan issue.
«Chinese leaders are clearly stepping up efforts to prepare the country militarily to face all possible security challenges, including unexpected situations,» he said.
China, with the world’s largest military in terms of personnel, is busy adding a host of new hardware, including aircraft carriers and stealth fighters.
Beijing says its defensive military spending is a comparatively low percentage of its GDP and that critics want to demonize it as a threat to world peace.
«The armed forces should intensify military training and readiness in all fields, develop new military strategic guidance, devote more energy to training under combat conditions, and make well-coordinated efforts to strengthen military work in all directions and domains.» said Premier Li.
Takashi Kawakami, a professor at Takushoku University in Tokyo, said China is likely to prioritize its nuclear capability.
“As China strengthens the new cognitive warfare area over Taiwan, I believe it will also use the budget to develop its cyber and space capabilities, as well as its submarine forces to attack undersea cables,” he said.
China’s reported defense budget in 2023 is about a quarter of the proposed US spending, though many foreign diplomats and experts believe Beijing is underreporting the actual figure.
The US defense budget for fiscal year 2023 authorizes $858 billion in military spending and includes funds for the purchase of weapons, ships and aircraft, and support for Taiwan and Ukraine in their fight against an invasion by Russia.
China has long argued that it needs to close the gap with the United States. China, for example, has three aircraft carriers, compared to the US’s 11 in active service.
The Ukraine war has led some elements of China’s military-industrial complex to call for an increase in the defense budget.
An article published last October in the official gazette of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, a central government ministry responsible for wartime logistics, recommended an increase in the military budget given the increase in defense spending by NATO member states, in addition to the United States.
“This issue is not about participating in the international arms race, but about defending our national security,” he said.