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Special> NPC & CPPCC Sessions 2009> Latest
UPDATED: March 5, 2009
Defense Budget to See 'Modest Tise'

China plans to increase its defense budget by 14.9 percent this year, slightly down as a share of government expenditure from previous years, the spokesman for the top legislature said yesterday.

The allocation is 480.7 billion yuan (US$70 billion), up 62.5 billion yuan from last year, Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the second session of the 11th National People's Congress, told a press briefing.

Defense spending accounts for 6.3 percent of the country's total fiscal expenditure in 2009, Li said.

The defense budget rose 17.6 percent year-on-year in 2008.

Li said the increased spending is mainly to improve conditions for servicemen, adding that more money would be used to lift their living standards.

Li said the increased budget will also be used to:

Purchase equipment and construct facilities to raise the ability of the military force to defend the country in the information age.

Enhance the military's emergency response capabilities in disaster relief, fight terrorism, maintain stability and other non-warfare military operations.

Reconstruct military facilities damaged in the 8.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Sichuan province on May 12 last year.

Li described the budget growth as "modest", saying that defense expenditure was fairly low compared with other countries, considering the size of China's population and territory.

"China has always been mindful of controlling the size of defense expenditure and setting defense expenditure at a level that ensures the coordinated development of national defense and the economy," Li said.

The United States' defense budget for the fiscal year 2009 is $515 billion, a 7.5 percent rise on the previous year. That does not include multi-billion dollar outlays for Iraq and Afghanistan and some spending on nuclear weapons.

"China's defense expenditure accounted for 1.4 percent of its GDP in 2008. The ratio was 4 percent for the United States, and more than 2 percent for the United Kingdom, France and other countries," Li pointed out.

"China's limited military force is mainly for safeguarding our sovereignty and territory and poses no threat to any other country," he said.

The draft national budget will be deliberated at the NPC annual session due to open in Beijing today.

Li said the government has been submitting an annual report on military expenditure to the United Nations since 2007, "so the country has no so-called 'hidden military expenditure'."

Peng Guangqian, a Beijing-based military strategic expert, told China Daily the budget reflects a good balance between military spending and economic growth.

Major-General Luo Yuan, a senior expert with the Academy of Military Science, said the two-digit increase in military spending is necessary because the country still faces threats from separatist forces in Taiwan, even though tensions across the Taiwan Straits have eased greatly since last year.

The modernization of military forces in an information age also requires large inputs, Luo added.

He noted the increased spending on the military will also help stimulate domestic consumption as the country grapples with the global economic downturn.

A rising yuan also makes the military budget, in dollar terms, bigger than it actually is, he added.

Zhu Guolin, a military expert in Beijing, said the increased spending ensures national security and development. "It is by no means a threat to other countries."

Other defense analysts said this year's lower percentage increase in military spending may reflect improved ties across the Taiwan Straits.

Teng Jianqun, a retired People's Liberation Army colonel who now serves as deputy secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said that growth in military spending should go down, but "the double-digit rate will continue for at least a few years".

Shanghai-based analyst Ni Lexiong said the smaller increase might also reflect tighter budgets resulting from the world financial meltdown.

"The global economic crisis has affected China along with other countries. I think this year, most countries will cut military budgets," Ni said.

In a white paper issued in January on the state of national defense last year, the government said defense expenditure has always been maintained at a reasonable and appropriate level.

In the past three decades of reform and opening up, China has ensured that defense development should be both subordinate to, and in the service of, the country's overall economic development, according to the white paper.

"Although the share of China's defense expenditure in its GDP increased, its ratio in government spending continued to drop on the whole," says the paper.

"Both the total amount and per-serviceperson share of China's defense expenditure remain lower than those of some major powers," it said.

(Xinhua, Agencies and China Daily March 5, 2009)

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