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Special> NPC & CPPCC Sessions 2015> Latest Headlines
UPDATED: March 5, 2015
China's Defense Budget Growth Rate Drops To around 10 Pct

China will raise its defense budget by around 10 percent this year, compared with last year's 12.2 percent, a spokeswoman for the annual session of the country's top legislature said Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference a day ahead of the Third Session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), Fu Ying said the exact figure will be published in a draft budget report Thursday.

"I can give you a rough idea. The recommended growth rate for national defense in the draft 2015 budget report is about 10 percent," Fu said.

China's defense budget rose by 12.2 percent last year to 808.2 billion yuan ($131 billion), riding on a multi-year run of double-digit increases.

A growth rate of about 10 percent could be the lowest in five years.

The figure will put the world's second largest economy's defense spending at some 890 billion yuan ($145 billion). The U.S. military spending amounted to $660.4 billion in 2013.

"To tell the truth, there is still a gap between China's armed forces [and foreign counterparts] in terms of overall military equipment. We still need more time," she said, adding that capital support is also needed for the modernization of China's national defense and its army.

"Compared with major countries in the world, the road to China's defense modernization is indeed a difficult one," Fu noted. "We have to rely on ourselves for most of our military equipment and research. Sometimes we have to do these from the very beginning," she said.

Fu said as a big country, China needs an army that can safeguard its national security and people.

"Lagging behind leaves one vulnerable to attacks. That is a lesson we have learned from history," she said. More than 35 million Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed or wounded as a result of Japanese aggression during the World War II.

The spokeswoman nonetheless noted that China's defense policy is defensive in nature, and that the principle is "clearly defined in the country's Constitution."

The country's past achievements in reform and opening up come not from "cannons and warships" but from mutually-beneficial cooperation, Fu said, adding that China will stick to the path of peaceful development.

China's military expenditures have seen a multi-year run of double-digit increases since 2010 when the defense budget was set to grow by 7.5 percent. The figures stood at 12.7 percent in 2011, 11.2 percent in 2012, 10.7 percent in 2013.

The double digits have caused some concerns from Western countries, although Chinese experts said they were perfectly in line with the country's economic conditions.

The Chinese economy grew 7.4 percent in 2014, the weakest annual expansion in 24 years. Many believe the government might set the 2015 growth target at around 7 percent.

If so, the around-10-percent rise in defense budget would have represented a steeper drop from last year, compared with the slowing economy.

In addition, although the rise in the defense budget in the past years has surpassed GDP growth, China's military expenditure in 2014 accounted for less than 1.5 percent of GDP, well below the world's average of 2.6 percent.

The per capita military spending is even less, representing only about 4.5 percent of the United States, 11 percent of Britain and 20 percent of Japan.

According to a white paper on national defense published in 2013, China' s military spending is divided into three parts.

The first part consists of the wages and subsidies paid to China's soldiers, which have increased to keep up with inflation. Like in many other countries, Chinese civilians participate in military service, usually obligatorily in first two years and then voluntarily afterwards.

The second part consists of expenditures on training and logistics.

The third part covers the cost of research and development, such as building a modernized defense system.

Expenditures also soared as China's armed forces are starting to bear more responsibilities around the world. The country's military has fought piracy in dangerous waters, offered medical expertise in countries affected by Ebola and swept for mines in countries that are still recovering from past wars.

(Xinhua News Agency March 4, 2015)

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