China will increase its defense budget by 7.2% this year

China said on Sunday it would increase its defense spending by 7.2 percent in 2023 from 7.1 percent last year, as its outgoing premier warned of growing “external” threats to Beijing’s rise.

The country will spend 1.55 trillion yuan ($225 billion) on defense this year, according to a finance ministry report published on the opening day of the annual session of the country’s rubber-stamp parliament.

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The increase is slightly higher than the previous year and is broadly in line with the normal pace of annual growth, but exceeds the annual GDP growth target of about five per cent announced in a separate report.

Beijing’s military budget is the second largest in the world after the United States and stood at 1.45 trillion yuan ($210 billion) last year, although many foreign analysts say the money has been spent far more than officially declared.

China’s defense spending is still lower than that of the United States, which has allocated more than $800 billion for its military this year.

Beijing has spent billions of dollars in defense modernization in recent years, aiming to turn its vast military into a world-class force rivaling the US and other Western powers.

Military tensions between China and the US have escalated over the past year, particularly over the status of Taiwan.

Beijing views Taiwan as part of its territory – vowing to seize it by force if necessary – and conducted some of the largest military exercises around the island in years when then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the self-governing island in the summer.

Washington diplomatically recognizes China over Taiwan, but maintains de facto ties with Taipei and supports the island’s right to decide its future.

‘peaceful reunion’

In a separate speech to present the government’s work report on Sunday, China’s outgoing Premier Li Keqiang warned that “outside efforts to suppress and contain China are on the rise”.

He said, “The armed forces should intensify military training and preparedness across the board… devote more energy to training under war conditions, and… strengthen military work in all directions and areas.” “

Li made a standard reference to opposing “separatism” in Taiwan and formal independence for the island, reiterating Beijing’s long-standing position.

“We should promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and push forward the process of China’s peaceful reunification,” he said.

China has butted heads with Japan over competing claims over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands – known as the Diaoyu in Chinese – and has been engaged in a deadly standoff with Indian troops over highlands of the disputed territory in the Himalayas.

Chinese authorities have built artificial islands, patrolled and harassed foreign fishermen in the disputed South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost entirely despite an international court ruling that the claims have no legal basis. Is.

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