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China hikes defence budget by 7.1 per cent to USD 230 billion

BEIJING (PTI):  China has hiked its annual defence budget by 7.1 per cent to USD 230 billion from last year's USD 209 billion, three times that of India's military spending.

The Chinese government has proposed the defence budget for the fiscal year 2022 at 1.45 trillion yuan (USD 230 billion), a 7.1 per cent year on year increase, according to the draft budget proposals presented by Premier Li Keqiang to the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's parliament on Saturday.

China's hike in defence spending comes amid the People's Liberation Army's growing incidents of muscle-flexing in the strategic Indo-Pacific region.

In his work report presented to the NPC, Premier Li called for deepening comprehensive combat readiness from the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

He said the PLA needed to carry out military struggles in a resolute and flexible manner to defend the country's sovereignty, security and development interests.

China's defence budget, which does not factor in the expenditure of much of its rapid modernisation of the navy, including the building of new aircraft carriers, air force and missile systems, is over three times that of India's defence budget of 5.25 lakh crore (about USD 70 billion) for 2022.

Besides the defence budget, China has a separate internal security budget which often surpasses the defence spending.

China which continues to be the largest standing army despite downsizing its troops to two million from the earlier 2.3 million in 2017 is the second-biggest spender on defence after the US whose defence budget was over USD 600 billion.

Last year, China's defence spending for the first time crossed USD 200 billion. In 2021, the defence budget grew by 6.8 per cent to USD 209 billion.

The defence spending increased over the years as the all-around development of China's military became the focus of President Xi Jinping ever since taking over power in 2012.

Xi, 68, who heads the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) besides the military and Presidency, unlike his predecessors is set to continue in power, perhaps for life after completing his 10-year tenure this year as he is conferred the title of core leader like the Party founder Mao Zedong.

Xi has also carried out extensive reforms of the military including downsizing of the army and enhancing the role of the navy and air force as Beijing set its sights on global expansion with military bases in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.

China has also taken over Sri Lanka's Hambantota port for a 99-year lease and expanded and modernised Pakistan's Gwadar port in the Arabian Sea where according to previous reports it plans a major naval base.

In his work report, Premier Li said that last year China made major strides in strengthening national defence and the armed forces, getting off to a good start in this endeavour in the 14th Five-Year Plan period.

This year, we will fully implement Xi Jinping's thinking on strengthening the armed forces and the military strategy for the new era, work toward the goals for the centenary of the People's Liberation Army in 2027, and strengthen Party leadership and Party building in all aspects of the military , he said.

We will enhance military training and combat readiness, stay firm and flexible in carrying out military struggle, and safeguard China's sovereignty, security and development interests , Li said.

We will move faster to modernise the military's logistics and asset management systems, and build a modern weaponry and equipment management system , he said.

As the Chinese military carried out massive modernisation, observers say its tactics and approach along the 3488 km long Line of Actual Control, (LAC) also changed with periodic incursions, prominent of them were the 2017 Doklam and 2020 Eastern Ladakh.

In Eastern Ladakh, as a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the Indian and Chinese armies completed the disengagement process in the north and south banks of the Pangong lake and Gogra areas but the standoff continued in the Hot Springs area.

The two sides so far held 14 rounds of Commanders level talks to resolve the Eastern Ladakh standoff.

China is also having increasing face-offs with the US in the disputed South China Sea and over Taiwan which China vows to integrate with the mainland.

In his work report, Premier Li said China will advance the peaceful growth of relations across the Taiwan Strait and Taiwan's reunification with China, and firmly opposes any separatist activities seeking "Taiwan independence" and foreign interference.

China claims Taiwan as part of the mainland.

Li in his work report said his government will continue the reform of national defence and the military and step up innovations in defence science and technology.

"We will implement the strategy of strengthening the military by training competent personnel in the new era, run the military in accordance with the law and strict discipline, and promote high-quality development of the military , he said.

China will improve the layout of defence science, technology and industry, he said adding that we will finish reforming the defence mobilization system and raise public awareness of national defence .

Government at all levels must give strong support to the development of national defence and the armed forces, so unity between the military and government and between the military and the people will remain rock solid , he said.

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