China, the world's second largest military spender after the US, on Tuesday, 5 March, announced a 7.5 percent increase in its defence budget for this year, hiking it to a whopping $177.61 billion, over three times that of India.
The 2019 defence budget will be 1.19 trillion yuan (about USD 177.61 billion), according to a draft budget report to be submitted at the opening of the annual session of China's Parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), on Tuesday.
The increase this year is lower than that of last year's 8.1 percent which amounted to $175 billion.
China had, on Monday, defended its massive allocation on security and hinted at raising it further this year, saying the country did not pose any "threat" to others.
Last year, China increased its defence budget by 8.1 percent, taking its declared defence spending to a whopping $175 billion which was over three times that of India’s.
The details of the exact amount were expected to be announced by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday in his work report to the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC).
However, NPC spokesman Zhang Yesui in his preparatory media conference on Monday put up a staunch defence to China's continued heavy spending on defence, saying it is still less compared to other "major developing countries" military expenditure.
“Whether a country is a military threat to others or not is not determined by its increase in defence expenditure, but by the foreign and national defence policies it adopts.”Zhang Yesui, Spokesperson, National People’s Conference
China's defence spending remained single digit since 2016 though it had double digit growths in five years preceding to that, he said when asked about apprehensions on China's defence spending.
Compared with other countries, China's defence budget accounted 1.3 percent of the GDP. Major developing countries spent two per cent GDP on their defence, Zhang said.
“China remains committed as always to peaceful path of development and we pursue a defensive national defence policy. China’s limited defence spending is for safeguarding the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the country. It is not a threat to other countries.”
The US Congress last year passed a whopping $717 billion annual defence spending bill for the fiscal 2019.
India's defence budget this year was increased by 6.87 percent to Rs 3.18 lakh crore against last year's allocation of Rs 2.98 lakh crore, notwithstanding expectations of a major hike when China and Pakistan were bolstering their military capabilities.
China, in recent years resorted to major reforms of its military which included giving priority to expand its navy and air force to enhance its influence abroad while cutting down three lakh troops of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
Even after the cuts, the PLA is the world's biggest military with two million personnel in its ranks.
As part of the new policy, China now has one aircraft carrier, another undergoing trials and third one under construction.
State media reported that China plans to have five aircraft carriers in the near future with plans to build nuclear carriers like the United States. It is also rapidly adding new naval ships and submarines.
It also claimed to have developed a new range of missiles and weapons systems in recent years including stealth aircraft.
(Published in an arrangement with PTI.)