China on 5 March hiked its defence budget to $ 209 billion, maintaining a single-digit growth for the sixth consecutive year with a 6.8% increase in 2021. The budget hike was announced by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the country’s Parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC).
Defending the increased defence spending, Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the NPC, told reporters that China’s efforts to strengthen its defence were not meant to target or threaten any country.
Whether a country poses a threat to others depends on what kind of defence policy it pursues, the spokesperson said, adding that China was committed to the path of peaceful development and adheres to a defence policy that is defensive in nature.
Last year, China had allocated 1.268 trillion yuan (about $ 196.44 billion).
The annual defence budget of China has maintained a single-digit percentage growth for the sixth consecutive year.
This year’s planned defence spending will be about 1.35 trillion yuan (about $ 209 billion), it said.
China’s defence budget is about one quarter of the US figure, which is $ 740.5 billion for the 2021 fiscal year, it said.
As the world’s second-largest economy and the most populous country, China’s planned defence spending per capita in 2021 will be less than 1,000 yuan ($ 154), it said.
China applies strict mechanisms of fiscal allocation and budget management on its defence expenditure, which is mainly assigned to personnel, training and sustainment, and equipment, it said.
China has voluntarily downsized its armed forces by over four million troops since 1978, according to a white paper released in 2019.
“China’s defence budget has increased rapidly in absolute terms over the last two decades,” said Adam Ni, analyst at the China Policy Centre in Canberra, Australia.
China is on a quest to transform the People’s Liberation Army into a fully modernised fighting force by 2027, and a world-class military rivalling the US by 2050.
The push for technologically advanced equipment has meant that costs have skyrocketed, Ni said.
“The external threats faced by China — including severe challenges posed by the US, especially its never-ending interference on the Taiwan issue — require it to strengthen its defence capabilities,” said Chinese military commentator Song Zhongping.
Over the past year, China has launched three new amphibious assault ships, and is currently building a third aircraft carrier.