March 5, 2015 / 12:18 AM / 5 years ago

China to raise defence budget 10.1 percent this year in high-tech drive

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will boost its military spending by 10.1 percent this year to 886.9 billion yuan ($141.45 billion) as it cranks up its development of high-tech weapons systems, the government announced on Thursday.

The spending increase, which will outpace China’s slowing, single-digit GDP growth, builds on a nearly unbroken two-decade run of annual double-digit rises in the defence budget.

Years of robust expenditure have fuelled a military build-up that has rattled nerves around the region, particularly as China has taken an increasingly robust line on its territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.

Countries from India to Vietnam have been working to narrow the military gap with China through weapons purchases and cooperation.

“We will comprehensively strengthen modern logistics, step up national defence research and development of new- and high-technology weapons and equipment, and develop defence-related science and technology industries,” Premier Li Keqiang said in an annual report to China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress.

“Governments at all levels must always take an active interest in and support the strengthening of our national defence and armed forces.”

Last year, defence spending was budgeted to rise 12.2 percent to $130 billion, second only to the Pentagon’s proposed $534 billion base budget for the U.S. military.

While Beijing keeps the details of its military spending secret, experts have said additional funding would likely go towards beefing up the navy with anti-submarine ships and developing aircraft carriers beyond a sole vessel in operation.

A crackdown on corruption that has ensnared some of China’s top uniformed officials appears not to have had much effect on the budget, as Xi keeps spending high to keep the top brass happy.

The official Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday the 2015 target would represent the slowest growth in military spending in five years.

Writing by John Ruwitch; Editing by Dean Yates and Alex Richardson

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