Beijing: China on Monday announced a 8.1% hike in its defence expenditure for this year to a whopping $175 billion, which is over three times higher than India’s defence budget, as it seeks to further advance an ambitious modernization drive for its military.
The 8.1% increase is higher than last year’s announcement, when China upped military spending by 7% over the previous year. According to a budget report to be submitted to the National People’s Congress (NPC) on Monday, the 2018 defence budget will be 1.11 trillion yuan ($175 billion).
China last year increased the defence budget to $150.5 billion. China is the second largest spender on defence after the US. The Pentagon has requested a budget of $686 billion in 2019, up $80 billion from 2017.
The increase of China’s defence budget by 8.1% this year, is three times higher than India’s latest defence budget of about $46 billion.
China’s budget announcement comes as President Xi Jinping, the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces, focuses on increasing both the sophistication and reach of the country’s military.
Though China announced its military spending at about $150.5 billion last year, observers say it is considerably higher, considering it is now building two more aircraft carriers in addition to the one already in service as well as addition of new jet fighters, including stealth fighter J-20.
The Chinese Navy also expanded its global reach with flotilla ships sailing through the far-off oceans to expand China’s influence.
The official media justified the increase to $175 billion, saying although slightly higher than the previous two years, the growth rate is the third time to dip into the single digit since 2013, following 7.6% in 2016 and 7% in 2017.
China’s defence budget takes up a smaller share of its gross domestic product (GDP) and national fiscal expenditure compared with other major countries, Zhang Yesui, the spokesperson of the NPC told the media here on Sunday.
Its military spending per capita is also lower than other major countries, Zhang said. “A large part of the growth of the defence budget is to make up for the low military spending in the past and is mainly used to upgrade equipment and improve the welfare of servicemen and women and the living and training conditions of grassroots troops,” he said.