China to increase 2018 defense budget by 8.1 percent

Aaron Brown
March 6, 2018

Thousands of Chinese legislators gathered in the imposing Great Hall of the People in a session that will make Xi the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, concentrating the growing might of the military, economy and state in the hands of one man.

The report added that the unchanged growth target was "fitting given the fact that China's economy is transitioning from a phase of rapid growth to a stage of high-quality development" and would allow it to "achieve relatively full employment".

Zhang Yesui, a spokesman for National People's Congress (NPC), addresses reporters ahead of China's annual session of parliament at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 4, 2018.

While many China watchers still believe the GDP numbers are much weaker than the official figures suggest, the country is a key driver of global growth.

U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed a military budget that is the largest since 2011 and focused on beefing up the country's nuclear defenses and countering the growing strength of China and Russian Federation.

China also refuted criticism that its multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was a geo-strategic tool to spread its influence and said such a characterisation was a "misinterpretation".

Last year, experts of the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) claimed that in 2032, mainland China would likely overtake the U.S. as the world's largest economy in dollar terms.

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Steel producers in Canada, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea and Turkey rely far more heavily on the USA market.

In a further display of sophistication, China in early February said it successfully tested a mid-course anti-missile defence system, deploying similar technology to that used to destroy a defunct Chinese satellite in 2007.

Heavy government infrastructure spending was a major driver behind China's forecast-beating growth past year, but Beijing has been cracking down in recent months on some rail and road projects launched by local governments as it seeks to curb their massive debts. The defence budget of the United States which is the highest in the world amounted to $602.8 billion.

Nevertheless, the Chinese government aims to keep the yuan exchange rate stable with consumer price index to reach expected 3 percent in 2018.

And the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said recently that the country's debt had ballooned and was now equivalent to 234% of the total output.

Most analysts had expected the 2018 target would be largely maintained or come in slightly lower, estimating the government exceeded the 3 percent level a year ago.

China suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, which would cross a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing, though Tsai has said she wants to maintain the status quo and is committed to ensuring peace. It is also China's first big political event after it became clear that President Xi Jinping intends to stay in power beyond his second five-year term, with the party proposing the constitution be changed to remove the limit.

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