BEIJING -- A plan to increase China's military spending to more than 600 billion yuan (US$91.3 billion) in 2011 is for national defense reasons and poses no threat to other countries, a spokesman for the nation's top legislature said on Friday.
Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the Fourth Session of the 11th National People's Congress, shakes hands with journalists following a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday. [Photo/ Xinhua]
Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the annual parliamentary session, assured that the country wants to forge "peaceful, stable, equal and mutually-trusting" relations with its neighbors.
"If approved at this session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the defense budget for 2011 will amount to 601.1 billion yuan, 67.6 billion yuan or about 12.7 percent more than last year," he told a press conference.
About 3,000 NPC deputies will attend a 10-day annual meeting in Beijing from Saturday to debate major issues, including budgets and the nation's five-year development plan.
Much of the extra defense money will go toward moderately improving armament, military training, human resource development, infrastructure of grassroots units and living standards of enlisted men and women, Li said.
He explained that the central government has always tried to limit military spending and has set the defense budget at a reasonable level to ensure the balance between national defense and economic development.
"The limited military strength of China is solely for safeguarding its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and will not pose a threat to any country," said Li, adding that China is committed to peaceful development.
"China attaches great importance to friendly relations with neighbors," he said. "Seeking peace, cooperation and development is a shared view of all Asian people, including the people of China and India."
Li, a former foreign minister, said the defense spending is included in the national draft budget to be reviewed and approved by the NPC each year.
"China's military spending is subject to auditing from the government and military," he said. "The expenditure is transparent. There is no such thing as a so-called hidden military expenditure in China."
Even with a population of more than 1.3 billion, vast amounts of land and long coastlines, China's military spending is low compared with the global average.
Its ratio of military spending to GDP is less than 2 percent, lower than many countries, Li said. That ratio in India is much higher than 2 percent, he said in response to a question from an Indian journalist.
China's military spending is dwarfed by that of the United States, which at US$725 billion accounts for about 4 percent of its GDP for the 2011 fiscal year, Xinhua News Agency quoted Major General Luo Yuan as saying.
To some extent, China's increase in military spending is to keep pace with its rising consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation, which rose 4.6 percent in December last year from a year earlier, said Luo, a researcher with the People's Liberation Army Military Science Academy.
"As a major developing country, China's defense spending has always been maintained at a moderate and sufficient level," he told Xinhua. "Moderate" means China will not raise its military spending merely for the sake of doing so, Luo said, while "sufficient" means the spending is to meet necessary demands.
Wang Shiping, president of Kunming Military Academy in Southwest China's Yunnan province, said the increase in military spending is normal and in step with the country's economic growth.
Liu Jukui, political commissar of Gansu provincial military region, told China Daily: "China needs to increase its defense budget as its army is trying to update its backward weaponry and equipment, to enable its transition into a modern army."
Cui Jia and Xinhua contributed to this story.