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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

China plans to raise military spending 7.2%

Delegates from China’s People’s Liberation Army arrived for the start of the annual National People’s Congress in Beijing on Saturday.

By Keith Bradsher

China’s military budget is set to rise by 7.2% this year, maintaining the country’s robust buildup of its armed forces despite slower economic growth and growing pressure on government finances as the population ages.

The projected increase in defense outlays by the Chinese central government, laid out in a budget report presented to the national legislature Sunday, means that the People’s Liberation Army’s forces will have nearly $225 billion to spend in 2023, including on new missiles, military aircraft, naval ships and other weapons. By contrast, Beijing increased the national military budget last year by 7.1%.

“We will provide support for modernization and development of the national defense and armed forces and work to strengthen our capacity in defense-related science, technology, and industry,” the Chinese budget report said.

China’s official budget might be an undercount. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated that China spent nearly $300 billion on its military in 2021. The United States, with by far the world’s biggest military budget, will increase its spending to $816.7 billion in the 2023 fiscal year.

While Washington maintains a global network of military bases and commitments, China has concentrated its armed buildup in Asia. Even with demands for more spending on hospitals, schools and welfare, many Chinese people support continued increases in military spending, said Richard A. Bitzinger, an expert on the Chinese military who formerly taught at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

“Chinese defense spending lately has outstripped GDP, which shows it’s very, very important to them, especially because they see the world as increasingly unpredictable and unstable,” Bitzinger said in an interview. “They more and more see themselves as in an out-and-out cold war with the United States.”

China’s navy has outstripped the U.S. Navy in number of vessels. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has indicated that he will expand the country’s array of nuclear weapons. By the end of this decade, the U.S. Department of Defense has estimated, China’s arsenal of over 400 nuclear warheads is likely to expand to 1,000.

The biggest focus of military planning in Beijing is Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as its territory. Xi, like previous Communist Party leaders, has said he wants to peacefully unify with Taiwan but will not rule out using force. China’s Defense Ministry denounced Friday the United States’ latest proposed arms sale to Taiwan as a “severe threat to the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait.”

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