China's defense budget for 2007 is expected to hit 350.92 billion yuan (44.94 billion U.S. dollars), 17.8 percent higher than that last year, a spokesman for China's top legislature's annual session said Sunday.
The figure marks an increase of 52.99 billion yuan (6.79 billion dollars) over that last year.
This year's defense budget accounts for 7.5 percent of the nation's budgeted fiscal expenditure, compared with 7.7 percent in 2004, 7.3 percent in 2005 and 7.4 percent in 2006, said Jiang Enzhu, spokesman for the Fifth Session of the Tenth National People's Congress, the top legislature of the country.
The State Council, or the cabinet, is to submit the budget for approval at the annual session of the legislature, which is scheduled to open here Monday.
Jiang said the defense budget is raised to further increase the salaries and allowances for servicemen and army retirees, so as to ensure their income is lifted together with economic and social development.
More money will be spent to improve the army's drilling and living conditions, he said.
The increased part will also be used to upgrade military equipment and improve the troops' capability of fighting a defensive war based on information technologies, he added.
The compensatory rise is designed to reinforce the originally weak basis of military defense, said Liao Xilong, director of the General Logistics Department of the People's Liberation Army.
"It's a moderate increase in step with China's economic development," said Liao, also a member of the Central Military Commission.
Jiang noted that China's military spending remains a low level compared with some other countries, especially the big powers, either in the sense of total sum or the ratio against their GDP ( gross domestic product) and total fiscal expenditure.
Taking the year 2005 as example, China's military expenditure stood at about 30.6 billion U.S. dollars, only 6.19 percent of the U.S. military spending, 52.59 percent of Britain's, 71.45 percent of France's and 67.52 percent of Japan's, said Jiang while answering questions from an NHK reporter.
China's military expenditure in 2005 accounted for 1.35 percent of its GDP, the lowest compared with 4.03 percent of the United States, 2.71 percent of Britain and 1.93 percent of France.
In terms of proportion of the military spending in fiscal expenditures, China reported 7.3 percent in 2005, compared with 20. 04 percent of the United States, 11.41 percent of France and 9.2 percent of Germany.
Jiang also stressed that China will stay in the road of peace and development and adhered to a defensive policy in military building.
"China's national defense is aimed to maintain the country's security and unity and to guarantee the realization of a moderately well-off society," he said.
"China won't pose a threat to any country, as it does not intend nor has the capacity to seek arm races against other countries," he added.
China had previously protested a Japanese Party leader's irresponsible remarks over China's increased military capacity.
In late February, Shoichi Nakagawa, policy chief of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said China could bring Japan under its control as "another Chinese province" in the future, given China's increasing military capabilities.
"It is natural for China to maintain a certain amount of defense power, as it is a sovereign state with long borders on land and in sea, and it gives no cause for criticism," refuted Qin Gang, spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, at a press conference.
At the same time, Qin also countered attacks from the United States on China's arms build-up, reiterating that China adheres to the road of peaceful development.
The United States has repeatedly said it does not believe the figures and doubts China has spent more than what is reflected in the budget.
China has shown full sincerity in response to international concerns by enhancing transparency, as revealed by a white paper on national defense issued last December, said Fang Tingyu, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which started its annual session here Saturday.
The white paper, for the first time, listed defense expenditure as a single chapter and explained in details the composition, increase and use of the expenses as well as the defense fund appropriation system.
According to the White Paper, from 1979 to 1989, China's defense expenditures actually registered an average annual decrease of 5.83 percent, given the 7.49 percent average annual increase of the consumer price index in the same period.
In recent years, China has gradually increased its defense expenditures on the basis of its economic development, but the white paper noted that after China began to shift the focus of its work to economic development in the 1980s, it was decided then that national defense should be both subordinated to and serve the country's overall economic development.
"As a result, national defense received a low input, and was kept in a state of self-preservation," the White Paper said.