China announced Monday it will boost its military spending by 8.1 percent this year to counter “profound changes” to the international geopolitical landscape.
The budget increase, which comes days after Vladimir Putin boasted about Russia’s upgraded nuclear arsenal, brings China’s annual defense spending to 1.11 trillion yuan ($175 billion).
The amount China spends on its military is closely watched by governments seeking a read on Beijing’s strategic intentions on the global stage, particularly under the increasingly authoritarian leadership of President Xi Jinping.
The details of the budget were announced during the opening of the National People’s Congress, where Premier Li Keqiang delivered a work report during the opening ceremony.
Li said the country’s national security environment was “undergoing profound changes” and to reflect this Beijing would modernize military technology and equipment and build strong border, coastal and air defenses.
“A large part of the growth of the defense budget is to make up for the low military spending in the past and is mainly used to upgrade equipment and improve the welfare of servicemen and women and the living and training conditions of grassroots troops,” NPC spokesperson Zhang Yesui told the state-run Xinhua news agency.
The problem for the U.S. and others seeking to gain insight from the figures is that many analysts believe the real figure for Chinese defense spending is far higher than officially revealed.
The U.S. Department of Defense said in January that it now sees China, along with Russia, as a greater threat to its interests than terrorism.
Beijing’s proposed increase in military spending outstrips the predicted 6.5 percent growth for China’s economy in 2018, but it falls short of the 10 percent increase in U.S. military spending proposed for 2018 by Donald Trump.
China has the second highest military budget of any country in the world, but it is still just a fraction of the $639 billion Trump wants to spend in 2018.
Cover image: A soldier takes part in a training in Beiji Village of the border county Mohe, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Feb. 5, 2018. (Xinhua/Li Gang via Getty Images)