China defence budget to rise by 7 to 8 percent 

Beijing, March 4 (IANS) China’s defence spending will increase by about 7 to 8 percent this year, the government said on Friday, adding that the rise was lower than that of last year.

“China’s military budget will continue to increase but it will be lower than last year’s,” Fu Ying, spokesperson for National People’s Conference (NPC) – China’s parliament – told reporters here.

“I can give a rough estimate. It will be between 7 and 8 percent. The exact increase will be announced tomorrow (Saturday),” Fu said at the Great Hall where the eleven-and-half-day NPC session begins on Saturday.

Since 2010, this will be the lowest hike in defence spending by China whose military budget grew by 10.1 percent (over $135 billion) in 2015.

China’s economy expanded 6.9 percent year-on-year in 2015, the slowest in a quarter of a century, weighed down by a property market downturn, falling trade and weak factory activity.

The announcement comes at time when there is tension between the US and China over the militarisation of the South Sea.

“By sending aircraft (to South China Sea), the US is provoking the resentment of Chinese people. The US is provoking tension. There is a big question on the ulterior motives of the US,” Fu said.

The spokesperson said the hike in 2016 is in line with China’s national defence needs and fiscal revenue.

Xinhua news agency added that Premier Li Keqiang will unveil the government’s GDP target on Saturday.

The figure is expected to be in a range between 6.5 and 7 percent, compared with the “approximately 7 percent” target announced by Li last year.

(Gaurav Sharma is the Beijing-based correspondent of IANS. He can be contacted at gaurav.s@ians.in)

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