BEIJING - China plans to increase its defense budget by 7.5 percent in 2010, only about half of last year's planned growth of 14.9 percent, a parliament spokesman said here on Thursday.
The planned defense budget is 532.115 billion yuan (about 78 billion U.S. dollars), a rise of about 37 billion yuan from last year's defense expenditure, Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), told a press conference.
Defense spending would account for 6.4 percent of the country's total fiscal expenditure in 2010, the same with last year, he said.
However, Li stressed that the figures would not be final until the budget plan is approved at the NPC annual session due to open in Beijing on Friday.
It is the first time for China's defense budget growth rate to drop to less than 10 percent in recent years which saw a row of consecutive double-digit increases.
This year's increased budget will be mainly be spent to support the reform of China's military and improve its capability to deal with varied threats and complete diversified tasks, Li said.
Part of the money will also be used to raise the living standards of servicemen, he said.
China has always taken the road of peaceful development and keep in line with the defensive national defense policy, Li said.
Taking into account China's large population, its vast territory, and its long coastline, the country's defense budget is "comparatively low," according to the former Foreign Minister.
"China's defense expenditure in recent years accounted for about 1.4 percent of its GDP," he said, adding that the ratio was four percent for the United States, and more than two percent for the United Kingdom, France and Russia.
He said China has been continuously raising its military transparency by submitting defense budgets to the NPC annual sessions for approval, issuing white papers every two years on its national defense, and establishing a spokesperson system and websites for its Defense Ministry.