China to increase 2018 defense budget by 8.1 percent

China will raise its defense budget by 8.1 percent in 2018, up slightly from last year's 7 percent.

China will raise its defense budget by 8.1 percent in 2018, up slightly from last year's 7 percent, but still considered moderate in view of the country's size, economic volume and security demands.

The 2018 defense budget will be 1.11 trillion yuan (US$175 billion), according to a budget report submitted to the first session of the 13th National People's Congress on Monday.

Although higher than the previous two years, it is the third time for the growth rate to dip into the single digit since 2011, following 7.6 percent in 2016 and 7 percent in 2017.

The country spent about 1.02 trillion yuan in national defense in 2017, about 1.3 percent of its gross domestic product.

China's defense budget takes up a smaller share of its GDP and national fiscal expenditure compared with other major countries, said Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the first session of the 13th NPC, at a press conference on Sunday.

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

China's military spending, which serves to safeguard the security of roughly 20 percent of the world's population, continues to lag behind the United States, though the two countries are growing closer in terms of economic size.

In November last year, the US House of Representatives passed a defense policy bill worth US$692 billion for the 2018 fiscal year, about four times China's budget, while the US population is a quarter of China's.

Steady and appropriate growth of defense spending is necessary because the Chinese armed forces have been modernizing to keep up with the country's development, said Major General Chen Zhou, research fellow at the Academy of Military Sciences affiliated with the People's Liberation Army.

A large part of the increased spending is for upgrading equipment, supporting military reforms and improving the welfare and training conditions of servicemen and women, Chen said.

China has set goals to complete the basic modernization of national defense and forces by 2035 and to transform its armed forces into world class by the mid-21st century.

In the past five years, the country has been trying to transform its armed forces from simply large to strong, with a restructured command system, enhanced combat readiness and reduced personnel.

The four military headquarters -- those for staff, politics, logistics and armaments -- have been reorganized into 15 agencies, while the seven military area commands were regrouped into five theater commands.

In the meantime, the percentage of land force personnel among the entire PLA was cut to less than half, and the new Rocket Force and the Strategic Support Force were established.

The number of PLA officers was also reduced by 30 percent.

The armed forces are required to meet new national security demands, fulfill new missions, offer strategic support for national rejuvenation and catch up with international military development, which requires continuous input, Chen said.

"Whether a country is a threat to others or not is not determined by its national strength and armed forces, but by the policy it adopts," Chen said.

With a defense policy that is defensive in nature, China's development will not pose a threat to any other country, he said.