China's annual defense budget will remain single-digit growth for the eighth year in a row, with an increase of 7.2 percent in 2023, according to a draft budget on Sunday.
The world's second largest economy's planned defense spending will be 1.5537 trillion yuan (about 224.79 billion U.S. dollars) this year, read the report on the draft central and local budgets submitted to the ongoing session of China's national legislature.
The figure for last year was 7.1 percent.
China's military spending has long been at the center of Western scrutiny, and so-called "China threat" has been hyped up almost every year.
However, the country's defense budget is only about one-quarter of that of the United States, which amounted to some 858 billion U.S. dollars in 2023.
In per-capita terms, China's defense spending is only one-sixteenth of that of the United States.
Describing China's defense budget increase as "appropriate and reasonable," Wang Chao, spokesperson for the first session of the 14th National People's Congress, told reporters Saturday that the growth is needed for meeting complex security challenges and for China to fulfill its responsibilities as a major country.
China pursues a national defense policy that is defensive in nature. It has stressed on multiple occasions that no mater how much defense expenditure is invested or how modernized its armed forces are, China will never seek hegemony, expansion, or sphere of influence.
This is in stark contrast to the United States, which currently has about 800 overseas military bases, with 173,000 troops deployed in 159 countries.
In recent years, the U.S. average annual military budget has accounted for over 40 percent of the world's total, more than the 15 countries behind it combined.
Noting that defense spending is determined based on the overall consideration of the need for defense building and the economic development level of a country, Wang Chao said China's defense spending as a share of GDP, which is lower than the world average, has been kept basically stable for many years.
China's defense expenditure is open and transparent. According to China's defense ministry, the country has been submitting reports on its military expenditures to the United Nations every year since 2008.
Its increased defense expenditure helps provide Chinese forces with better training and more advanced equipment. It also supports the military in tackling non-conventional security threats such as major epidemics and natural disasters, extending helping hands to people in need in and outside of China.
According to China's National Defense Law, military personnel have an obligation to participate in emergency rescue and disaster relief.
In 2020, when Wuhan was hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Chinese military sent over 4,000 medics to assist in the epidemic fight.
China's armed forces are also committed to providing the international community with more public security goods to the best of their capacity.
China is a major contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget and the largest troop-contributing country among the permanent members of the UN Security Council, sending more than 50,000 personnel on peacekeeping missions over the last three decades.
Since 2008, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy has sent 43 fleets to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somali on escort missions to protect the international lane, escorting over 7,000 Chinese and foreign vessels.
The PLA naval hospital ship Peace Ark has visited over 40 countries and regions, providing medical services to more than 240,000 people since it was commissioned in 2008.
"China's future is closely intertwined with that of the entire world. China's military modernization will not be a threat to any country. On the contrary, it will only be a positive force for safeguarding regional stability and world peace," Wang said.