China on Monday unveiled an 8.1 percent rise in defense spending for 2018, fueling an ambitious military modernization program and making its neighbors, particularly Japan and self-ruled Taiwan, nervous.
The Communist Party of China kicked off its annual National Congress that decides the state's agenda with this year's session primarily created to revamp the party constitution to lift limits on presidential terms, enabling President Xi Jinping to hold onto power indefinitely and entrench the single party's hold over the world's second largest economy.
China will "advance all aspects of military training and war preparedness, and firmly and resolvedly safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests", Premier Li Keqiang told the opening session in an address.
The inspiring message in the government work report echoes the Chinese leadership's commitment made at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last October that "China will not close its door to the world, and it will only become more and more open".
China previous year increased the defence budget to $150.5 billion.
Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui on Sunday said China's "moderate" defense spending rises in the past few years were less than other major countries and would not threaten anyone. China has seen the United States as its biggest potential security threat, alarming Beijing with freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea the United States calling China a strategic competitor. He also said that China plans to shift 2.8 million people living in rural areas to urban settlements. He also said the country will target a growth rate of around 6.5% in 2018 that would lift 10 million people out of poverty.
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China has the world's largest military by number of personnel, but Li said the country had "basically completed" the target of reducing the size of the armed forces by 300,000 troops.
Widely-read Chinese tabloid the Global Times said if China really wants to expand militarily, the defense budget should really be rising 20 to 30 percent.
Kerry Brown, director of the Lau China Institute at Kings College London, said Wang's claim that the proposal had overwhelming support could be a veneer.
After averaging about double digit annual growth in the first 35 years after adopting economic reforms in 1978, China's economic growth slowed considerately in recent years, dipping under 7 percent annual growth rate since 2015. According to a recent report from the U.S. Commerce Department, "The recent global excess capacity is 700 million tons, nearly 7 times the annual total of U.S. steel consumption".
This year's defence budget for China would be at a whopping 175 billion dollars. "It is increasingly clear that China and Russian Federation want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model - gaining veto authority over other nations' economic, diplomatic, and security decisions".
The CPC-led multiparty co-operation and political consultative system is a basic part of China and a new type of political system that grows from the nation's soil, Mr Xi said. According to a report in CNN, Trump said, "He's now president for life".
US provocations in the South China Sea, tension in the Taiwan Strait and the United States, Japan, Australia and India forming alliances demand a rise in spending, it added.