Author: Li Rongde
Posted on: Caixin Global, March 4th, 2017
Beijing has sought to ease jitters in the international community over its growing military muscle, saying the country is committed to peace and dialogue, but that it needs to build its capacity for self-defense.
China’s defense budget will increase by about 7% to maintain it at a level equivalent to about 1.3% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), Fu Ying, the spokeswoman for the National People’s Congress (NPC) told a news conference in Beijing Saturday.
The NPC will convene for its annual session in Beijing Sunday.
The planned military spending, down from an increase of about 7.6% in 2016, is in line with the country’s need for national defense and its economic growth, Fu said.
However, China’s rising defense spending has been under intense scrutiny for years as the world’s second largest economy becomes increasingly assertive over global issues and flexes its military muscle, underscored by its ambition in aircraft carrier development.
Its construction of military facilities on disputed islets in the South China Sea has caused unease among its neighbors and their allies in the West, including the United States.
United States President Donald Trump has taken China to task over its increased military presence in the South China Sea.
The United States Navy sent an aircraft carrier and guided missile destroyer to patrol the area late last month, the U.S. military confirmed.
Many analysts see the deployment, the first under the Trump administration, as the start of a more hawkish U.S. approach toward China, which could put bilateral relations at stake.
In a bid to play down such concerns, Fu, on Saturday, attributed the perceived shift in U.S. policy toward China to misconception due to a general lack of understanding of China among Americans.
She said that China will continue to pursue military development to defend its sovereignty and national security; however, China remains a developing country lagging far behind the United States.
But tensions in the South China Sea are easing and future relations will hinge upon what the United States intends to do in the region, she said. “U.S. activities in the South China Sea certainly are a wind vane in the region.”