The Daily Telegraph

China ups military spending in face of ‘escalating’ threats

- By Simina Mistreanu

XI JINPING is increasing military spending to its fastest pace in four years, because of “escalating” foreign threats.

Spending on defence will increase by 7.2 per cent to 1.55trillion yuan (£187billion) this year – the sharpest rise since 2019 when defence spending rose by 7.5 per cent to 1.19trillion yuan.

The announceme­nt yesterday comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, territoria­l spats in the South China Sea, border disputes with India and the country’s threat to invade Taiwan.

Highlighti­ng the renewed focus on defence spending, Li Keqiang, the premier, set a more modest target for economic growth of around 5 per cent for this year. It is the lowest growth target in more than a quarter of a century despite the economy being battered by three years of Covid rules.

“External attempts to suppress and contain China are escalating,” he said at the annual session of China’s rubberstam­p parliament.

“We remained committed to the party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces.”

Last year, Beijing set a 5.5 per cent economic growth target but badly missed it, as tourism, retail and property markets all suffered under draconian lockdowns. The economy grew 3 per cent – its second-worst performanc­e since 1976, the final year of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution.

This year’s increase on military spending will mark the eighth consecutiv­e year of single-digit percentage point increases in what is the world’s second-largest military budget.

The US spends more on its military than any other country, with a budget of $773billion (£5.8billion) for 2023, putting China a distant second, although it has broader security commitment­s around the world.

It comes as Beijing asserts itself abroad with a foreign military base in Djibouti in East Africa and a naval base in Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base that could give it at least a semi-permanent presence on the Gulf of Thailand facing the disputed South China Sea.

The moves have prompted concerns among the US and its allies, particular­ly over Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that China claims as its territory to be brought under its control, by force if necessary.

“The people’s armed forces intensifie­d efforts to enhance their political loyalty, to strengthen themselves through reform, scientific and technologi­cal advances, and personnel training, and to practise law-based governance,” Li said.

 ?? ?? Deputies at the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress in Beijing yesterday
Deputies at the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress in Beijing yesterday

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