China defense budget to grow 10.7% in 2013

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China plans to raise its defense budget by 10.7 percent to 720.2 billion yuan (114.3 billion U.S. dollars) in 2013, according to a budget report to be reviewed by the national legislature. [More about Wen's government work report]

The military spending will be used to improve living and working conditions of service people, make the armed forces more mechanized and information-based, and safeguard national security, the report on draft central and local budgets for 2013 says Tuesday.

China spent 650.6 billion yuan on national defense in 2012, an increase of 11.5 percent than the previous year, says the report to the first session of the 12th National People's Congress.

Moderate growth of defense spending can better achieve PLA's goal to boost combativeness, said Yin Zhuo, director of the Expert Consultation Committee of the PLA Navy.

"The PLA is at a stage of intensifying efforts to accomplish the dual historic tasks of military mechanization and full IT application. It is a critical moment that calls for greater defense expenditure," Yin said.

General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Xi Jinping has ordered the PLA to intensify its "real combat" awareness in order to sustain military readiness.

"It is the top priority for the military to be able to combat and win battles," Xi, who is also the chairman of CPC Central Military Commission, made the remarks during an inspection in December.

China strives to basically complete military mechanization and make major progress in full military IT application by 2020, according to a keynote report at 18th Party Congress of CPC in November last year.

"It is a military norm that the higher IT application level an armed force is at, the greater the spending on procurement, operation and maintenance would be," Yin said.

Chen Zhou, a researcher with the PLA Military Science Academy noted that the growth of China's defense expenditure had historically lagged far behind the country's economic development.

"After years of 'compensatory' budget growth, China's military spending is getting more coordinated with the country's economic growth," said Chen.

"How could the military effectively safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity without more spending?" Chen said.

The government has been trying to play down media frenzy surrounding China's defense spending in the legislative session.

Spokeswoman Fu Yin told a press conference on Monday that "it seems China has to explain every year to the outside world why we should strengthen national defence and why we should increase the military budget."

"China's peaceful foreign policies and its defensive military policies are conducive to security and peace of Asia," Fu said.

China's military spending is dwarfed by that of the United States, and its per capita figure is also far less than that of the U.S.

In recent years, China's military spending amounted to about 1.6 percent of its GDP. The ratio was less than that of the United States, Britain and many other countries.

Fu said that China's participation in UN peacekeeping missions and anti-piracy patrols showed that its military was promoting global peace and stability.

"Overseas military missions are often several times, or even dozens of times, more costly than domestic ones," Yin said.

By moderately raising its defense budget, China is capable of making more contributions to world peace, the military expert said.

China is the largest personnel contributor to UN peace-keeping missions among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Since 2008, China has sent 12 batches of naval task forces to conduct escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.

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