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Amid ‘escalating’ threats, China increases military spending by 7.2%

China on Sunday said its military spending was rising at the fastest pace in four years and warned of “escalating” foreign threats at a session of its stamp parliament, which is set to give Xi Jinping a third term as president.

The increase in the world’s second-biggest defense budget came as Beijing announced an economic growth target of around 5 percent for this year – one of the lowest in decades.

The country’s projected budgets for the year put defense spending at 1.55 trillion yuan ($225 billion), up 7.2% and the fastest rate of increase since 2019. Last year, it officially rose 7.1% .

Outgoing Premier Li Keqiang told delegates to the National People’s Congress (NPC) that “external attempts to suppress and contain China are escalating.”

“The armed forces should step up military training and readiness across the board,” he said as he presented the government’s annual work report to thousands of assembled delegates at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The military must “devote more energy to training in combat conditions and … strengthen military work in all directions and areas,” he added.

China’s defense spending still pales in comparison to the United States, which has allocated over $800 billion to its military this year.

But analysts have said Beijing is spending much more than the amounts officially announced.

The increased spending comes amid a trough in China-US relations.

Beijing and Washington have clashed over trade, human rights and other issues in recent years, but relations soured even further last month when the US shot down a Chinese balloon it said is being used for surveillance — one Claim vigorously denied by Beijing.

Senior American officials have also repeatedly warned that China could invade Taiwan in the years to come, citing Beijing’s increasingly assertive military moves around the self-governing island, which it regards as its own territory and has vowed to take control of .

Niklas Swanstrom, director of the Stockholm-based nonprofit Institute for Security and Development Policy, said Beijing “appears to be investing in its ability to take over Taiwan and keep the US out of the region.”

“We have a military arms race in Northeast Asia and Chinese armaments are driving that,” he added.

James Char, an expert on China’s military at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, pointed out that several countries across Asia are increasing defense spending, in part because of “their respective threat perceptions of the regional security landscape.”

– ‘Constant Recovery’ –

Pundits are expecting few surprises at this week’s carefully choreographed NPC, which will see thousands of politicians gather from across China to vote on laws and personnel changes pre-approved by the ruling Communist Party (CCP).

Sunday’s conservative economic targets followed China, which grew by just 3 percent last year and fell well short of its stated target of around 5.5 percent as the economy slumped under the impact of tough Covid-19 containment measures and a housing crisis was burdened.

“The growth target was at the lower end of market expectations. But it should be viewed as a growth floor that the government is willing to tolerate,” said Zhiwei Zhang, president and chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management.

“Given the very low base of economic activity over the past year, growth is unlikely to fall below 5 percent,” he said.

Li struck an upbeat tone in his speech, saying China’s economy “is in a steady recovery and is showing tremendous potential and momentum for further growth.”

He hailed Beijing’s growth-dampening Covid curbs – which were abruptly abandoned late last year – and “effective and well-coordinated” economic and social development.

“We have overcome great difficulties and challenges and managed to keep overall economic performance stable,” he said.

– Xi dominates –

Also high on the NPC’s agenda is the norm-breaking reappointment of Xi as president on Friday, after he committed another five years as party and military chief — the two most important senior positions in Chinese politics — at a convention in October.

Since then, the 69-year-old Xi’s leadership has faced unexpected challenges and trials, with protests over his zero-Covid policy and a deadly coronavirus surge after it was later dropped.

But those troubles will almost certainly be avoided at the conclave in Beijing this week, which will also unveil a Xi confidante and former Shanghai party leader Li Qiang as the new premier.

Delegates to the National People’s Congress — and the concurrent “Political Consultative Conference” (CPPCC), which began on Saturday — will also discuss issues ranging from economic recovery to improved sex education in schools, according to state media reports.

The meetings serve as a forum for participants to pitch pet projects, but they have little bearing on broader questions about how China is governed.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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