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Govt proposes 7.2% rise in defense budget to $225b

By Zhao Lei | | Updated: 2023-03-05 10:12
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An information operations combat group formation marches to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in Beijing on Oct 1, 2019. [Photo/IC]

The Chinese government has proposed a defense budget of 1.55 trillion yuan ($225 billion) for the 2023 fiscal year, a 7.2-percent year-on-year increase, according to a draft budget report submitted to the national legislature on Sunday morning.

The figures were included in the report prepared by the Ministry of Finance and distributed at the opening meeting of the first session of the 14th National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

If approved by lawmakers, the proposed expenditure will maintain single-digit growth for an eighth consecutive year.

At the NPC session last year, the Chinese government proposed a defense budget of 1.45 trillion yuan for the 2022 fiscal year, a 7.1-percent year-on-year increase. The 2021 defense budget was proposed at 1.35 trillion yuan, raised by 6.8 percent.

The annual Government Work Report, released at Sunday's opening meeting, said that China's national defense system and the armed forces have made remarkable achievements since last year and the military has been effectively safeguarding the national sovereignty, security and interests.

The work report noted that the military will continue making all-out efforts to follow the Xi Jinping Thought on Strengthening the Military and the Party's military strategies in the new era, focus on the goals for the PLA to accomplish by its centenary in 2027, and fulfill tasks given by the Party and the people.

Speaking at a news conference in Beijing on Saturday, Wang Chao, the spokesperson for the first session of the 14th NPC, said that defense spending is determined based on overall consideration of the need for defense ability and the economic development level, which is a common practice across the world.

"The increase in defense spending is needed for meeting the complex security challenges and for China to fulfill its responsibilities as a major country. China's defense spending, as a share of GDP, has stayed basically stable for many years and it is lower than the world average. An increase is appropriate and reasonable."

"China's future is closely intertwined with that of the entire world. China's military modernization will not be a threat to any country. On the contrary, it will only be positive for safeguarding regional stability and world peace," the spokesman said when answering a question on China's defense budget.

Song Zhongping, a military affairs commentator and retired officer from the PLA, said China has maintained a moderate increase in its defense expenditure for many years and the nation does not seek to get involved in arms races with other countries.

"Despite the fact that the United States, some European countries and our neighbor, Japan, have tremendously hiked their military budget, China has refrained from sharpely raising its own budget though it is fully capable of doing so," he said. "Our country is not like the US and Japan that keep going after military superiority. That is not what we want. China wants a balance in economic development and defense capability."

The world's largest spender on military affairs is the United States. Its defense budget for the fiscal year 2023 was $858 billion, an 11.7-percent year-on-year hike. A large proportion in the military bill will go to Ukraine and China's Taiwan to strengthen their armed forces, US media reported.

In Japan, a record defense budget of 6.8 trillion yen ($51 billion) for fiscal year 2023 has been recently approved by law makers, highlighting an astonishing 26-percent annual increase.

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