BEIJING: China’s defence budget this year is likely to rise at its slowest pace since 2010, in line with the decelerating economy, by a much lower figure than had been expected, although it probably does not represent the true spending number.
Fu Ying, spokeswoman for China’s parliament, said the figure would increase by about seven to eight percent from 2015, following a nearly unbroken two-decade run of double-digit budget increases.
Fu told a news conference the actual figure would be released on Saturday, when the annual session of China’s largely rubber-stamp legislative body opens.
It will be the first single-digit rise in spending since 2010, when the military budget logged a 7.5 percent increase.
Defence spending last year was budgeted to rise 10.1 percent to 886.9 billion yuan ($135.39 billion), which still only represents about one-quarter that of the United States.
The U.S. Defense Department budget for 2016 is $573 billion.
China’s leaders have routinely sought to justify military modernisation by linking defence spending to rapid GDP growth. But growth of 6.9 percent last year was the slowest in 25 years, and a further slowdown is widely expected in 2016.
“One simple reason for the lower increase is that double digit growth is now harder to sustain,” said Bonji Obara of the Tokyo Foundation think-tank. “But another reason is that China’s anti-corruption campaign means less money is being siphoned off and spending has become more efficient,” he added, referring to President Xi Jinping’s vigorous efforts to root out graft.