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Defense budget to rise about 10%

2015-03-05 09:10 China Daily Web Editor: Si Huan

China will raise its defense budget by around 10 percent this year to support its military modernization, a senior official said on Wednesday.[Special coverage]

At a news conference one day ahead of the opening of the third session of the 12th National People's Congress, Fu Ying, spokeswoman for the top legislature, said China needs strong armed forces that can safeguard its national security and people.

"Lagging behind leaves one vulnerable to attacks. That is a lesson we have learned from history," she said. "Financial support is essential for the modernization of China's national defense and the People's Liberation Army."

Fu added: "To tell the truth, there is still a gap between China's armed forces (and foreign counterparts) in terms of overall military equipment. We still need more time. However, the defensive nature of China's defense policy will not be changed because this is clearly stipulated in our Constitution."

China's defense budget rose by 12.2 percent last year, riding on a multiyear run of double-digit increases.

A growth rate of about 10 percent would be the lowest in five years.

"Compared with major countries in the world, the road to China's defense modernization is indeed a difficult one," Fu said. "We have to rely on ourselves for most of our military equipment and research. Sometimes we have to do these from the very beginning."

China's past achievements in reform and opening-up come not from "cannons and warships", Fu said, but from mutually beneficial cooperation, ensuring that China will stick to the path of peaceful development.

Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said China's military expenditure is still far from enough to meet the PLA's actual need in its modernization drive.

"The double-digit increases in our defense budgets over the past several years were made to compensate for the serious underinvestment that haunted the PLA ... since the early 1980s," he said. "The PLA had to use inadequate funds to maintain its basic training and drills for a long time."

Along with the rapid growth of China's economy, it is normal for the government to give a reasonable increase to the defense budget, Zhang added.

"As a matter of fact, since 2010, the proportion of defense spending in the overall GDP has been ranging from 1.2 to 1.5 percent, lower than those in Western nations, which are usually around 2 percent," Zhang said. "Meanwhile, the per capita expenditure for each PLA service member is much lower than those of developed countries.

"For instance, despite the fact that the PLA navy has commissioned a number of advanced ships and submarines over the past two years, there are still a lot of old vessels that need to be replaced, which requires a large amount of investment," the senior researcher said. "In addition, the fact that our navy is fulfilling more and more obligations for the international community also means we need a bigger budget."

Xu Guangyu, a retired major general who is a senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said: "The PLA will continue to endure an insufficient budget for many years as the rise in military expenditure is subject to the nation's economic development."

The slowing pace of economic growth will definitely lead to a lower increase in the defense budget, Xu said.

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