China says 2015 defence budget to rise about 10 per cent

China says 2015 defence budget to rise about 10 per cent

BEIJING - China's defence budget this year will rise about 10 per cent compared with 2014, the spokeswoman for the country's parliament said on Wednesday, outpacing the slowing Chinese economy as the country ramps up investment in high-tech equipment.

National People's Congress spokeswoman Fu Ying told a news conference that the actual figure would be released on Thursday, when the annual session of China's largely rubber-stamp parliament opens. Last year, defence spending rose 12.2 per cent to $130 billion, second only to the United States.

"I can reveal the rough situation. Among the recommendations for 2015 ... defence budget and the increase in defence spending, the magnitude is probably about 10 per cent," Fu said.

China has logged a nearly unbroken two-decade run of double-digit budget increases, though many experts think China's real defence outlays are much larger.

"Compared with great powers, the road of China's defence modernization is more difficult. We have to rely on ourselves for most of our military equipment and research and development," Fu added.

"In addition, we must strengthen the protection of our officers and soldiers. But fundamentally speaking, China's defence policy is defensive in nature. This is clearly defined in the constitution. We will not easily change this direction and principle."

While Beijing keeps the details of its military spending secret, experts have said additional funding would likely go towards beefing up the navy with anti-submarine ships and developing more aircraft carriers beyond the sole vessel in operation.

China's leaders have routinely sought to justify the country's military modernization by linking defence spending to rapid GDP growth. But growth of 7.4 per cent last year was the slowest in 24 years, and a further slowdown to around 7 per cent is expected in 2015.

Other factors would now keep defence spending high, from the US military and diplomatic "rebalancing" to Asia to President Xi Jinping's crackdown on corruption in the People's Liberation Army, which has caused some disquiet in the ranks, military experts have said.

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