China to raise defense budget by 8.1% in 2018

039;China doesn't want a trade war with the US,' says Zhang Yesui spokesman for the National People's Congress

"China doesn't want a trade war with the United States", Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the National People's Congress, told a news conference on the eve of the rubber-stamp parliament's annual session.

It will create a transparent, stable and predictable business environment for foreign investors and protect their rights and interests, ensuring that they enjoy national treatment and a fair market, he said.

The National People's Congress (NPC) is also expected to remove the two-term presidential limit, enabling Xi Jinping to remain in office indefinitely.

Since China plans to cut taxes this year, it will nearly certainly have to achieve its budget deficit goal through reduced spending, according to the Capital Economics analysts.

Diplomats say China's defence numbers probably underestimate true military spending for the People's Liberation Army, the world's largest armed forces, which are in the midst of an impressive modernisation programme overseen by Xi.

Defense spending is forecast to rise 8.1% in 2018, faster than the 7% increase past year, according to a budget document released Monday.

After years of double-digit percentage growth, China's defense budget is the second largest in the world after the United States'. "China's development will not pose a threat to other countries".

China's military growth also includes the development of anti-satellite missiles, nuclear attack submarines, and its aircraft carrier capabilities.

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In the air, China last month said it had begun equipping combat units with its J-20 stealth fighter jet, the country's answer to fifth-generation jets such as the U.S. F-22 and F-35.

President Donald Trump announced last Thursday he would impose hefty tariffs on imported steel and aluminium to protect USA producers, risking retaliation from major trade partners like China, Europe and neighbouring Canada andsparking fears of a global trade war.

Trade tensions between the world's two largest economies have risen since Trump took office in 2017, and although China only accounts for a small fraction of US steel imports, its massive industry expansion has helped produce a global glut of steel that has driven down prices.

The figure, an 8% increase on past year, was announced as the annual meeting of parliament got under way in Beijing.

The Chinese Navy also expanded its global reach with its warships sailing through the far-off oceans to expand China's influence.

"The fact that a target continues to be set signals to all - including to officials - that rapid growth remains a priority", analysts at research firm Capital Economics said in note to clients.

Spokesman Zhang said the rise in defense spending is partly to compensate for past insufficiency in spending, and is mainly being used to upgrade equipment, improving the lives of servicemen and -women, and to improve training conditions for troops.

Diplomatic and USA business sources say the United States has all but frozen a formal mechanism for talks on commercial disputes with China because it is not satisfied Beijing has met its promises to ease market restrictions.

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