China's defence spending in 2017 to rise around 7 per cent

Armed policemen patrol Tian'anmen Square in Beijing ahead of this weekend's National People's Congress

Armed policemen patrol Tian'anmen Square in Beijing ahead of this weekend's National People's Congress. VCG

Fu Ying, spokesperson for the fifth session of China's 12th National People's Congress (NPC), speaks during a press conference on the session at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 4, 2017.

Last year, China increased its defence spending by 7.6 per cent, allocating about 954 billion yuan (around United States dollars 143.7 billion), the lowest increase in six years.

China announced Saturday it will increase its military budget by around 7% this year, reflecting a slowdown in its economy and despite tensions in the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula.

The increase in spending still gives China the world's second biggest defense budget after the U.S. It continues a robust modernization program that over the past quarter-century has transformed the Chinese military into a formidable regional power and burgeoning global one, with outlays going to build naval, air force and other capabilities that allow Beijing to project power far from the Chinese mainland.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will announce China's economic growth target on Sunday.

"The strengthening of Chinese capabilities benefits the preservation of peace and security in this region, and not the opposite", Ms Fu added.

Trump then publicly questioned United States support for the one-China policy, alongside constant criticism of China's currency tactics, threats to slap punitive tariffs on Chinese goods, and bluster over China's military build-up in the South China Sea - all of which are believed to have reinforced the concerns of the nation's top leaders who prize stability and predictability as top priorities.

Beijing and Washington have clashed over the disputed South China Sea, with the USA conducting what it calls "freedom of navigation" operations in the waters.

"There was a view that China would increase its defense budget in line with the rise of the defense budget in the United States".

According to Vice Minister Fu, there is the need for China to safeguard its soveriegnty.

The 2016 figure marked the first time in six years that spending growth did not rise into double figures.

This week influential state-run tabloid the Global Times called for a rise of at least 10 percent to deal with the uncertainty brought by Trump, and a retired senior general told Hong Kong and Taiwan media that 12 percent would be needed to match the USA rise. "There's a huge difference between China and the U.S. in capability".

However, analysts say China's moderate growth of its military budget is more a reflection of its slowing economy than an attempt to appear non-aggressive on the worldwide scene.

Trump has proposed increasing America's defense and security spending by $54 billion while putting the budgets of other lower-priority government agencies on the chopping block.

However, she said, "we are a developing country and there is a huge capability gap" between China and the U.S.

The CPPCC official said China's Belt and Road Initiative is advancing steadily and bringing investments and jobs to participating countries. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in trade passes each year.

Future trends in the region "will depend on U.S. intentions vis-a-vis the region and USA activities [which] to a certain extent set the barometer for the situation here", Fu said.

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