China will increase its defense budget by around seven percent in 2017, as it guards against “outside meddling” in its disputes, an official from the top legislative body said, adding that the “gap in capabilities” with US is enormous.
“We call for a peaceful settlement through dialogue and consultation [of the disputes]. At the same time we need the ability to safeguard our sovereignty and interests and rights,” Fu Ying, spokesperson for the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislative body, said, as cited by AFP.
She added that “strengthening of Chinese capabilities benefits the preservation of peace and security in this region, and not the opposite.”
“In particular, we need to guard against outside meddling in the disputes,” she added.
Fu did not specify the “disputes” or the country which would “meddle” in Chinese affairs, though she was apparently referring to the South China Sea and East China Sea territorial disputes.
The South China Sea, a waterway of strategic importance, has been at the center of tensions between multiple nations contesting waterway and offshore resources.
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan have claims in the region.
“As to how to the situation develops in future, that depends on US intentions.
American actions in the South China Sea have a definite significance in terms of which way the winds blow,” she said, adding that the “gap in capabilities” with the US is “enormous."
The precise figure for the 2017 defense budget will be provided by Premier Li Keqiang during his speech at the NPC on Sunday morning.
This is the lowest increase in the Chinese military budget since 2010. In 2016, the country raised its defense spending by 7.6 percent – 954.35 billion yuan ($138.4 billion).
Fu said that the 2017 defense budget increase accounts for about 1.3 percent of GDP.
In late February, US President Donald Trump said he aims to increase the Pentagon’s budget by $54 billion, as part of a push to rebuild America’s “depleted military.”
White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney said that the total defense budget will be $603 billion, the Associated Press reported.