China Says It Needs a ‘Proper Increase’ in Defense Spending

(Bloomberg) -- China said it would need to increase its military spending to protect itself and that it doesn’t pose a threat to other countries.

“A proper increase in the defense budget is needed to safeguard national security and transform China’s military with Chinese features,” Zhang Yesui, a spokesman for China’s National People’s Congress, said at a briefing on Monday in Beijing ahead of the start of the annual meeting.

The country’s defense outlay accounted for 1.3 percent of last year’s gross domestic product, Zhang said. He said China is committed to a peaceful defense policy. The government’s estimate on annual military spending increases will likely be released at the NPC on Tuesday.

Zhang said China’s defense budget has maintained single-digit growth since 2016, down from double digit growth the previous five years.

The country’s military budget rose 8.1 percent to 1.11 trillion yuan ($165 billion) last year, as President Xi Jinping works to complete the modernization of China’s armed forces by 2035, and to build a world-class military capable of winning wars across all theaters by 2050. His success will determine the ability of the People’s Liberation Army to mount a serious challenge to U.S. interests in Asia over the coming decades.

The military spending figure is one of the few pieces of official data available as the U.S. and China’s rivals in Asia seek to gauge the development of the People’s Liberation Army.

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