A J-15 fighter jet takes off at the Liaoning aircraft carrier in this undated file photo. (Photo/Xinhua)
China's expenditure on its military is purely used to safeguard the country's sovereignty, security and interests and its defense spending is much lower than major global powers such as the United States by every criterion, a military spokesman said.
Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, spokesman for the delegation of the People's Liberation Army and the People's Armed Police Force at the first session of the 14th National People's Congress, said on Monday that China firmly follows a peaceful development path and its military policies are defensive in nature.
The country is an active participant in the United Nations' mechanism for transparency on military expenditure and has voluntarily provided data on its annual defense spending since 2008, Tan said.
"Compared with military powers such as the United States, our defense spending is much lower by every criterion, ranging from its share of GDP and overall government expenditure to the cost per capita and per service member. This nation's limited investment in the military is solely meant to protect its sovereignty, security and interests," he said.
The Chinese government proposed a defense budget of 1.55 trillion yuan ($223.5 billion) for the 2023 fiscal year, a 7.2 percent increase year-on-year, according to the draft budget report submitted to the national legislature on Sunday.
If approved by lawmakers, the defense budget will maintain a single-digit growth for the eighth consecutive year. At the NPC session last year, a defense budget of 1.45 trillion yuan was proposed, up 7.1 percent year-on-year.
China needs to slightly increase its defense spending, Tan said, pointing out that the added funds can be spent on strengthening the armed forces' combat training to improve the integrated national strategic system and capabilities.
The funds can be used to speed up the establishment of a modern logistics system and carry out R&D on major defense technologies and weapons systems, he said. It can also help deepen and reinforce the results of military reforms, while improving the working and living conditions of military personnel, he added.
"The Chinese government adheres to the coordinated development of its defense capabilities and the economy, and determines the scale of its national defense spending based on both its defense needs and the level of the national economic development," Tan said.
"Over the past several years, we have maintained a moderate increase in defense spending, and managed to boost both our defense capabilities and economic strength," he added.
Wu Peixin, a military affairs observer in Beijing, said thanks to the central government's attention and investments, the PLA has made massive strides in its modernization drive, but the nation's armed forces still have a long way to go before they can catch up with other countries.
"For instance, our aircraft carriers and advanced fighter jets are far from adequate if they are required to handle threats or challenges," he said, calling for continuous investment in hardware and training.