China will spend 10 per cent more on defence this year compared with 2014, even as President Xi Jinping launched an overhaul of the PLA in a bid to stamp out corruption that could hinder combat readiness of the forces.
China is ramping up investment in high-tech equipment such as submarines and stealth jets, partly to offset a slowing of economic growth, a top government official said today.
The defence budget will rise about 10 per cent this year, in line with the increase in the general budget, Fu Ying, National People's Congress spokeswoman, said at a briefing ahead of the National People's Congress (NPC) meetings that begins tomorrow.
Ying said the actual figure would be released tomorrow, when the annual session of the NPC opens. Last year, China's military spending rose 12.2 per cent to 808.2 billion yuan ($128.9 billion).
The official Xinhua news agency said the 2015 target, projected at around $145 billion, would represent the slowest growth in military spending in five years.
China, whose defence budget is second only to the United States, has steadily increased its military spending by double-digit over the last two decades.
China is hugely expanding its naval strength and has now a submarine fleet larger than that of the United State, and its robust military build-up has unnerved surrounding countries and is posing a threat to regional security.
With the Chinese navy making inroads to the Indian Ocean, India is desperately trying to narrow the military gap with China.
But, with an annual budget of $40 billion, India may not be able to compete with China in military spending.
With a 7.9 per cent increase in 2015-16 defence budget at $40 billion, India may not even be able to acquire enough fighter planes, submarines and warships.
In the United States, the Obama administration has proposed a hike in Pentagon's base defence budget to $534 billion and an additional $51 billion in war funds.
It is now seeking more funds and has urged the Congress to end cuts that could erode US military power.
China justifies its defence spending, linking the country's military modernisation to rapid GDP growth. But growth has been lower at 7.4 per cent last year - the slowest in 24 years, and a further slowdown to around 7 per cent is expected in 2015.
Beijing also says it faces a threat from Islamist militants in the far western region of Xinjiang, and that it is drafting a new anti-terror law that will create a legal framework for sending troops abroad on counter-terrorism missions to defend its economic interests.