China is set to increase its defence budget by 8.1 percent to 1.1 trillion yuan ($173 billion) in 2018, in an effort to further modernize the world’s largest army.
The defence budget, which was presented in a report before the opening session of the annual National People’s Congress on Monday, shows a hike in the growth rate compared to last year, when Finance Ministry officials said the budget was rising 7 percent to 1 trillion yuan ($151 billion).
“We will stick to the Chinese path in strengthening our armed forces, advance all aspects of military training and war preparedness, and firmly and resolvedly safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests,” Premier Li Keqiang told the legislature.
Li said the military had completed the reduction of its troops, cutting the numbers by 300,000, making the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) a two-million-strong force.
The military is instead preparing to launch its second aircraft carrier, integrate stealth fighters into its air force and field an array of advanced missiles capable of attacking air and sea targets at vast distances.
By cutting numbers and applying sophisticated equipment, Chinese leaders aim to make their defence forces “leaner and meaner,” according to military experts.
Media reports noted that Chinese military’s focus will be on anti-access/area denial, or A2/AD operations, which seek to secure the mainland and scare off foreign forces far from China’s shores.
China’s navy has boosted its maritime forces in the past years by buying the Liaoning aircraft carrier and refurbishing it.