China pushes its defense budget, increases military spending by 7 per cent

Experts say that China is sending a clear message that it is not interested in an arms race.

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People's Bank Of China Reuters

The Chinese defence officials have announced that the country would increase its defense budget by 7 percent for 2017. Ironically, this is the lowest increase in the past seven years. With Trump pushing for bigger US defense budget, it looks like China is sending a clear message that there are no plan to engage in an arms race. Trump is planning to push American defense spending by $54 billion

The news was announced at the annual National People's Congress meet. A report on NY Times stated, "Fu Ying, a spokeswoman for the legislature, said the increase would be "about" 7 percent. She said defense spending would amount to roughly 1.3 percent of China's gross domestic product." However, they are yet to release the final figures of the actual spent. The announcement will be made at their budget session on Sunday.

"President Xi Jinping and President Trump have had two direct phone calls, and the message was very clear, which is that there must be more cooperation between China and the United States so we become good partners," Fu added. "Fundamentally, this is about the United States worrying that China could catch up and surpass the U.S. in its ability. But in fact there is a still a huge gap in ability between the U.S. and China, which is still a developing country," she was further quoted.

Interestingly, before 2016 China made a double-digit increase in their military budget which was clearly a reflection of their then-booming economy. Experts opine that the Chinese gross domestic product is expected to grow by 6.5 percent with the inflation rate at 2 percent. Moreover, the government is expected to focus more on health care, education and other increasingly expensive social needs.

Local Chinese dailies also reported that the defense budget will focus more on the navy spending—keeping in mind the South China Sea dispute. China is also not in a good term with its neighbours and United State over the sea borders.

A report on Washington Post claimed, "The White House and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have said the United States won't let China take territory in the South China Sea, though they have said little about how the United States would respond to Chinese construction of artificial islands."

This article was first published on March 5, 2017