China Ready for War With 10% Boost in Military Spending for 2018

China announced its military budget will rise by 8.1 percent from 2017 on Monday, as it prepares for war and safeguards against "profound changes" in the international geopolitical environment.

The 2018 defense budget will be $175 billion (1.11 trillion yuan), according to a report issued at the opening of China's annual meeting of parliament.

China will "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 opening session in an address.

"Faced with profound changes in the national security environment the absolute leadership of the military by the ruling Communist Party must be observed, and the unity between the government and the military, and the people and the military, must always be 'strong as stone,'" he added.

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Soldier stand next to a J-10 fighter jet during an exhibition for the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) outside Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution in Beijing, China July 28, 2017. On Monday, China unveiled its largest rise in defense spending in three years. The 2018 budget will be $175 billion, 8.1 percent up from the year before. Reuters

The defense spending figure is closely watched around the world for clues to China's strategic intentions. The country is developing new military capabilities, including stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles.

However, China does not provide a breakdown of how it allocates its defense budget, leading neighbors and other military powers to complain that Beijing's lack of transparency is adding to regional tension.

Diplomats say China's defense numbers probably underestimate true military spending for the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the world's largest armed force.

One senior Asian diplomat, speaking before the announcement, said the real rise would probably be at least double what China revealed, considering its efforts to build up the industrial military complex and deepen military-civilian integration. "Some spending will be hidden in civilian spending," said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The move comes a week after Beijing's increasingly authoritarian leader Xi Jinping announced a proposal to remove a constitutional clause limiting presidential service to two terms, which would effectively allow him to stay in power indefinitely.

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Under Xi's leadership, China has been undergoing an impressive modernization program. Earlier this year, the president rallied thousands of troops for a military address and grand display of might in Baoding, in the northern province of Hebei.

During his speech, Xi told 7,000 heavily armed officers and soldiers standing information that they should not fear "death" as they fight for their country's Communist values. Xi encouraged the troops to "enhance their military training and combat readiness" to "grasp the capability to win battles" as dictated by the Chinese Communist Party (CPC).

Last year, defense spending was set to increase by just 7 percent, at $164.60 billion, or about one-quarter of the proposed U.S. defense spending for the year. In 2016, it grew by 7.6 percent.

"The pace and scale of this build-up is really dramatic. It is extremely alarming for Australia and many other countries in the region," said Sam Roggeveen, a visiting fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of the Australian National University in Canberra.

He added: "There is every indication that China wants to expand what it will call defense capabilities in the South China Sea. I expect eventually we will see warships and aircraft there regularly, if not based there permanently. What is unclear, however, is whether the United States will want to rise to that challenge."

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China now has the second-largest military budget in the world. However, its figure is still far lower than President Donald Trump's U.S. proposal, which would provide the Pentagon with $617 billion and an additional $69 billion for ongoing wars in fiscal year 2019–a $74 billion increase over the previous fiscal year's budget.