China increases def budget 7.2% to $224bn, 8th consecutive hike
China will boost defence spending 7.2% this year, slightly outpacing last year’s increase, as Premier Li Keqiang called for the armed forces to boost combat preparedness. The 1.55 trillion yuan ($224bn) in military spending in the national budget released on Sunday is closely watched by China’s neighbours and in Washington as a barometer of how aggressively the country will beef up its military. China pegged its defence budget at 1.5 trillion yuan last year, a 7.1% increase. This year’s hike marks the eighth consecutive single-digit increase. As in previous years, no breakdown of the spending was given, only the overall amount and the rate of increase.
In his work report presented to the opening session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) – the country’s rubber-stamp parliament – Premier Li Keqiang spoke highly of the armed forces’ achievements at the borders without directly referring to the still unresolved eastern Ladakh standoff with India. “They carried out operations in a firm and flexible way, and they effectively conducted major missions relating to border defence, maritime rights protection, counterterrorism and stability maintenance, disaster rescue and relief, Covid-19 response, peacekeeping, and merchant ship escorting,” Li’s work report said. The reference to “major missions relating to border defence” was regarded as significant in the context of offensive actions by the PLA in eastern Ladakh in May 2020 along the Line of Actual Control with India, triggering a prolonged standoff that has virtually frozen the relations between the two countries.
China is the second biggest spender on defence next to the US whose defence budget for 2023 totalled $816 billion. From India’s point of view, however, China’s defence budget continued to be over three times higher. India’s defence budget for 2023-24 amounted to Rs 5.94 lakh crore (about $72.6 billion).
Beijing is nervous about challenges on fronts ranging from Chinese-claimed Taiwan to US naval and air missions in the disputed South China Sea.
Li said, “Our armed forces, with a focus on the goals for the centenary of the PLA in 2027, should work to carry out military operations, boost combat preparedness and enhance military capabilities. The armed forces should intensify military training and preparedness, develop new military strategic guidance, devote greater energy to training under combat conditions.”