China's defense budget for 2006 will rise 14.7 percent to 280.729 billion yuan (more than 35 billion US dollars), a budget report distributed Sunday in Beijing.
The rise marks an increase of 36.025 billion yuan (4.5 billion U.S. dollars) from that of last year.
The increase of the budget is to strengthen the army's capability to fight against a defensive war and to respond to emergencies, and to raise soldiers' pay, said the report submitted to the Fourth Session of the Tenth National People's Congress (NPC) , China's top legislature.
China's military spending remains at a low level compared with some other countries, such as the United States, Britain, Japan and France, said Jiang Enzhu, spokesman for the annual session of the NPC, on Saturday, when answering questions from reporters at the press conference.
The annual full session of the Chinese parliament opened in Beijing at 9:00 a.m. Sunday, with the presence of more than 2,900 deputies from all over the country.
China's vast territory demands the safeguard of advanced military equipment, which, however, needs great upgrade and reinforcement at present, said Guo Xinning, a researcher with the strategic institute under the University of National Defense.
Compared with 17.8 percent of the United States, 11.4 percent of France and 9.25 percent of Germany, China's defense budget in 2005 accounted for only 7.34 percent of the budgeted fiscal expenditure, even lower than that in the 1970s, Guo said.
"The increase in military budget is actually an effort to narrow the gap," the expert said.
The defense budget rise was applauded by the country's netizens, who voiced their ideas after the news was released on Internet.
An online critic commented on the message board of www.sina.com that China should raise its defense budget to 10 percent of its whole fiscal budget, as the country "stands on a weak base" of national defense.
"There's no reason for China to have a lower defense expenditure than other countries," another critic said.
Also on sina.com's message board, a netizen self identified as a military man in the country's northeast said defense budget rise is surely good news to his fellow army men. The netizen said almost half of his fellows, whose wives are unemployed, have to shoulder the economic burden of the family themselves.
"Every one of us expects for the improvement of army men's living and working conditions," the netizen said.
General Wang Yufa, an NPC deputy from the People's Liberation Army, said China adopts a defensive military strategy, and the defense budget was raised to create a stable and safe environment for the country's economic development.