China announces 8.1% defence budget increase

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China has set its GDP growth target at around 6.5 per cent for 2018, unchanged from that for 2017, according to a government work report released Monday.

This year's defense budget comes to about 1.3 percent of last year's GDP of 82.7 trillion yuan ($12.4 trillion).

The 8.1% increase is higher than last year's announcement, when China upped military spending by 7% over the previous year.

Among the key tasks were the restructuring of the economy to move away from export-led manufacturing to services, domestic consumption and high-tech manufacturing; tackling serious air, water and soil pollution with the number of bad air days in key cities being halved in the five-year period; poverty alleviation with 68 million people lifted out of poverty; and balancing development among rich and poor regions.

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The largely rubber-stamp parliament, known as the National People's Congress, is stacked with those who follow the word of the central leadership to the letter.

China plans to increase its military spending by 8.1% in 2018 in an effort to modernize its armed forces. "It is increasingly clear that China and Russian Federation want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model - gaining veto authority over other nations' economic, diplomatic, and security decisions".

Beijing has also imposed increasingly assertive claims to vast expanses of the contested South China Sea, while engaging in confrontations with Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea and with India over Himalayan border regions.

However, China's publicly announced defence spending has never been entirely accurate since it fails to omit a significant amount of "off book" expenditures on defence equipment projects, said Peter Jennings, executive director of the nonpartisan Australian Strategic Policy Institute think-tank. In April, it launched a 50,000-ton carrier built entirely on its own based on the Ukrainian model.

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Such vessels stand to alter the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific, where the U.S. Navy has always been dominant and regional rivals such as Japan and India are stepping up their presence. "Also on special technologies like quantum satellite communications and so on".

"Whether a country poses a threat to other countries doesn't depend on the strength of its military, but on the internal and external policies it exercises", said Chen Zhou.

The government will also spread the use of practices developed in existing free trade zones all over the country, and explore opening free trade ports, he said.

"If it would be the case that a wide number of people were being consulted, I'd imagine there would be many leaks - people would leak that to global media", he said.

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Though China doesn't wish to be seen as a Russian ally, there is a renewed sense of big-power competition, Yue said.

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