China skips announcement of national defence budget

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Beijing, March 4 (PTI): China’s development will pose no threat to any other nation, a top official said on Sunday as the country for the first time in recent years skirted the customary announcement of its national defence budget ahead of its annual parliament meeting.

Every year, the spokesman of the National People’s Congress (NPC), unveils the country’s defence budget in terms of percentage.

But this year, Zhang Yesui, a former vice foreign minister, who took over as the spokesman of the NPC did not reveal any percentage of increase though he defended the steady rise of China’s military expenditure, saying it is consistent with China’s rise.

China will adhere to the path of “peaceful” development, Zhang said.

“With a defence policy that is defensive in nature, the development of China will pose no threat to any other country,” he said.

China last year increased the defence budget to USD 150.5 billion, three times higher than India’s latest defence budget of about USD 52.5 billion.

The defence budget of the US which is the highest in the world amounted to USD 602.8 billion.

Though China announced its military spending at about USD 150.5 billion, observers say it is considerably higher, considering it is now building two more aircraft carriers in addition to the one already in service as well as addition of new jet fighters, including stealth fighter J-20.

Chinese Navy also expanded its global reach with flotilla ships sailing through the far-off oceans to expand China’s influence.

It is not clear yet whether China’s defence spending for this year would be figured in the work report of Premier Li Keqiang which would be submitted to the NPC on Monday.

Without disclosing any details, Zhang said China’s defence input rate is lower than other major countries and China’s development will pose no threat to any other country.

China’s defence budget takes up a smaller share of its gross domestic product and national fiscal expenditure compared with major world countries, he said.

Its military spending per capita is also lower than other major countries, he said.

A large part of the growth of China’s defence budget is to make up for the low military spending in the past and is mainly used to upgrade equipment and improve the welfare of servicemen and women and the living and training condition of troops.

Zhang also denied that the multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is China’s geo-strategic tool, saying such a characterisation is a misinterpretation.

“To say that the Belt and Road Initiative is a geo-strategic tool, in my view, this is a misinterpretation of the initiative.” Zhang said.

India opposed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor connecting China’s Xinjiang with Gwadar as it passes through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

“Five years ago, President Xi Jinping put forward the (BRI). Over the past five years, thanks to the joint efforts from all parties, this initiative is being turned into actions from a concept, and it is being translated into reality from a vision,” he said.

Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the 12th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, delivered a work report to 2,149 political advisors who gathered to discuss major political, economic and social issues in the world’s most populous nation and second largest economy.

“We will focus our advice and efforts on the main issues in securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and embarking on a journey to fully build a modern socialist China,” Yu said.

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