Members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army line up outside the Beijing Exhibition Center for the “Five Years of Sheer Endeavor” exhibition in Beijing, China. (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

China Military Spending Quickens as Xi Seeks `World Class' Force

(Bloomberg) -- China said defense spending would increase at the quickest pace in three years, as President Xi Jinping pursues a “world-class” military capable of projecting force further from the country’s coasts.

The central government’s military outlays are expected to rise 8.1 percent to 1.11 trillion yuan ($175 billion) this year, the Chinese Ministry of Finance said Monday in its annual report to the national legislative session in Beijing. Last year’s budget called for an increase of 7.1 percent, the slowest pace since at least 1991.

The spending figure is one of the few pieces of official data available as the U.S. and Asian neighbors seek to gauge the pace and intentions of China’s military development. While the figure equals about one-quarter of U.S. outlays, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that China’s actual spending is about 55 percent more than officially stated.

Besides approving the defense budget, NPC deputies are also expected to appoint Xi to a second term as president and repeal constitutional term limits requiring him to step down in 2023. The amendment may give Xi more time to advance a pledge in October to complete China’s restoration as a global power by the mid-century mark.

China Military Spending Quickens as Xi Seeks `World Class' Force

“China is committed to a path of peaceful development and China pursues a defense policy that is defensive in nature,” Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui, a spokesman for the National People’s Congress, said at a briefing Sunday. “China’s development will not pose a threat to other countries.”

The Trump administration has expressed concern about China’s growing military and economic influence, calling the country a “revisionist power” intent on disrupting the current global order. A U.S. defense strategy document published in January said China “seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the United States to achieve global preeminence in the future.”

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