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POST TIME: 6 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM
China sets $175b military budget
BBC

China sets $175b military budget

China has announced a military budget of 1.11 trillion yuan ($175bn; £126bn) for the coming year, reports BBC from Beijing. The figure, an 8% increase on last year, was announced as the annual meeting of parliament got under way in Beijing. Prime Minister Li Keqiang also set a target of 6.5% growth for the economy. The National People's Congress (NPC) is also expected to remove the two-term presidential limit, enabling Xi Jinping to remain in office indefinitely.

The move, which was long expected but has been controversial even in China,has helped cement Mr Xi's status as the most powerful leader since Chairman Mao Zedong. Thousands of Chinese legislators at Monday's meeting burst into applause when the plan to scrap the two-term limit was read out to the chamber. The vote on the proposal will take

place on 11 March and is expected to be unanimously approved.

The NPC is largely a rubberstamp parliament, endorsing decisions already made by the Communist Party.

Its delegates, about 3,000 of them representing all provinces and regions, are technically elected, but in practice, hand-picked by the Party.

The gathering takes place under tight security - known dissidents are routinely removed from the capital before it takes place.

The government has said it will focus on three main goals over the coming year: tackling China's exposure to financial risk, reining in rampant pollution and continuing to combat poverty.

In his opening report to parliament, Mr Li said the army must be "strong as stone" in the face of "profound changes in the national security environment". The increased spending, announced in a  budget report, is seen as a good indication of China’s strategic ambitions, as it continues to modernise its army - the world’s largest - and develop its infrastructure in contested areas like the South China Sea and its Himalayan border regions.

While expected, the spending increase will further unnerve China’s regional rivals. China is now the world’s second largest economy. After years of rapid growth, millions have been lifted out of poverty and there is a ballooning middle class.