Fu Ying, spokeswoman for China's parliament, said the figure would
increase by about seven to eight percent from 2015, following a
nearly unbroken two-decade run of double-digit budget increases.
China's military build-up has rattled nerves around the region,
particularly because China has taken an increasingly assertive
stance in its territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.
Fu told a news conference the defense budget would be released on
Saturday, when the annual session of China's largely rubber-stamp
legislative body opens.
It will be the first single-digit rise in spending since 2010, when
the military budget logged a 7.5 percent increase.
Defense spending last year was budgeted to rise 10.1 percent to
886.9 billion yuan ($135.39 billion), which still only represents
about a quarter of that of the United States.
The U.S. Defense Department budget for 2016 is $573 billion.
China's leaders have routinely sought to justify military
modernization by linking defense spending to rapid GDP growth. But
growth of 6.9 percent last year was the slowest in 25 years, and a
further slowdown is widely expected in 2016.
"One simple reason for the lower increase is that double-digit
growth is now harder to sustain," said Bonji Obara of the Tokyo
Foundation think-tank and a former military attaché at Japan's
embassy in Beijing.
"But another reason is that China's anti-corruption campaign means
less money is being siphoned off and spending has become more
efficient," he added, referring to President Xi Jinping's vigorous
efforts to root out graft.
The defense budget had been widely expected in military and
diplomatic circles to log another double-digit increase.
Fu said the budget was based on national defense needs, the state of
China's economy and the performance of its fiscal revenues.
China's official Xinhua news agency said the slower pace of the
increase reflected both economic realities and Beijing's
determination to pursue peace, but noted it still face complex
security threats, including from terrorism, and would not let down
"There are many reasons for China not to be able to sleep without
worries," it said in a commentary.
China has been repeatedly criticized for a lack of openness in its
defense spending and its intentions.
"China needs to be transparent and explain its military spending to
the international community," Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani
said in Tokyo ahead of Fu's announcement.
"It's crucial that China does not upset the regional balance and
that it firmly contributes to international stability."
[to top of second column]
James Curran of the University of Sydney said this year's defense
numbers - which still represent a hefty rise - would add to anxiety
among U.S. allies and Washington about Xi's intentions.
"There are provocative actions in the South China Sea, and this
announcement on top of that is only going to increase concerns about
what this means for the region and intensify the idea of a regional
Xi is seeking to drag the People's Liberation Army into the modern
age, cutting 300,000 jobs and revamping its Cold War-era command
However, the reforms have run into opposition from soldiers and
officers worried about job security.
Beijing is also feeling public pressure to show it can protect its
claims to the South China Sea after the United States began
conducting "freedom of navigation" operations near islands where
China has been carrying out controversial reclamation work and
stationing advanced weapons.
Fu said the United States was militarizing the South China Sea with
constant deployments of ships and aircraft.
"Our expansion and building of islands and reefs in the South China
Sea is really necessary, and the Chinese people all support it," she
If the United States continues to boost its military presence in the
region, China will have to build more islands and deploy more
weapons, the influential state-run Global Times said in an
"If two nuclear powerhouses engage in a competition to test each
other's willpower, the whole world will face the repercussions," it
While Beijing keeps secret the details of its military spending,
experts have said additional funding would probably go towards
beefing up the navy with anti-submarine ships and developing
aircraft carriers beyond a sole vessel in operation.
China last year confirmed it was building its second carrier.
(Additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan, Nobuhiro Kubo in TOKYO
and Colin Packham in SYDNEY; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Nick
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