US Pacific Fleet commander says China's military budget lacks transparency

Marie Harrington
March 10, 2018

The figure, down from the 6.9% reported growth for 2017, was announced by Premier Li Keqiang at the opening session of the annual National People's Congress.

But China's defense spending as a share of GDP and the budget remains lower than that of other major nations, Zhang Yesui, a spokesman for the legislature, said Sunday.

The head of the Navy's Pacific Fleet is calling for more transparency from China after the country announced its biggest jump in military spending in three years.

The increased spending has sparked fears in Taiwan that an increasingly hard-line government under Xi could step up military pressure on the democratic island, which has never been ruled by the Communist Party.

"China will do more to support areas affected by extreme poverty, and the central budget's newly enlarged poverty reduction funds and related transfer payments will be weighted toward these areas", he added. "There's a lot of questions on the minds of countries in the region of what exactly does this mean?"

Improving the people's well-being, an objective of economic growth, was also given special mention.

While China is aiming for a narrower official deficit, leaders still plan to expand the issuance of special objective bonds, which are sold by local governments to finance items that aren't included in the general public budget and not counted in the deficit ratio released annually.

"There is every indication that China wants to expand what it will call defense capabilities in the South China Sea".

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In his annual work report, Li also stressed that China had cut its budget deficit target for the first time since 2012, suggesting the government will be more watchful of fiscal spending.

In the air, China last month said it had begun equipping combat units with its J-20 stealth fighter jet, the country's answer to fifth-generation jets such as the U.S. F-22 and F-35.

The Communist Party of China kicked off its annual National Congress that decides the state's agenda with this year's session primarily created to revamp the party constitution to lift limits on presidential terms, enabling President Xi Jinping to hold onto power indefinitely and entrench the single party's hold over the world's second largest economy.

In January, the Department of Defense published a summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which singled out China and Russian Federation as revanchist powers that are the "central challenge to USA prosperity and security".

"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.

China plans to "actively" resolve debt risk at the local government level and to increase the liquidity of local government bonds, the ministry report said.

China's "intent is not clearly understood", he said.

China decried the USA strategic posture as "Cold War mentality".

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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