China defense spending to climb 7.2% amid Sino-U.S. rivalry - M5 Dergi
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China defense spending to climb 7.2% amid Sino-U.S. rivalry

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China announced a 7.2% hike in its defense budget for the coming year, the same rate of increase as the previous year, as Beijing continues to modernize its military amid its rivalry with the United States and its network of allies.

The 1.67 trillion yuan ($231.4 billion) outlay, noted in a report outlined by Premier Li Qiang at the annual session of China’s National People’s Congress, marked the ninth straight year of rising budgets for the world’s second-largest military.

That report also set a growth target of 5% for China this year — similar to last year — as its economy continues to founder over what analysts say are deep-seated structural issues.

China has in recent years plowed cash into an effort to forge a more powerful military, bolstering its missile and nuclear forces and building a massive navy that can project its power further from its shores.

Li, speaking before the country’s rubber-stamp parliament and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, lauded the country’s “new achievements and progress” in national defense over the last year, saying that the Chinese armed forces had “fulfilled their missions and tasks with impressive results.”

“This year, we will continue to implement ‘Xi Jinping thinking’ on strengthening the military,” Li said. “We will take critical steps to meet the centenary of the People’s Liberation Army and will strengthen all-around military training and combat readiness and … speed up the implementation of major defense-related projects.”

Xi, who has cemented his grip on power in recent years, has called for China to build a “world-class military” by 2027, when the PLA marks 100 years since its founding.

On Taiwan — which China claims as a renegade province that must be united with the mainland, by force if necessary — Beijing reiterated in its report that it “resolutely opposes ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist activities and external interference, and promotes the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.”

The defense budget announcement and remarks on Taiwan come just less than a month after Taiwanese voters elected current Vice President Lai Ching-te to succeed Tsai Ing-wen as the island’s president in a poll lambasted by China.

Officials in Beijing have labeled Lai “a destroyer of peace across the Taiwan Strait,” criticizing him for his view that Taiwan is “already a sovereign independent country.”

China has ramped up its military and “gray-zone” moves near Taiwan in recent years, including repeated “combat training” around the democratic island. This has triggered concerns of a possible invasion by China, despite hints by U.S. President Joe Biden that Washington — which does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taipei — would help Taiwan militarily in the event of a conflict.

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