The massive Chinese military build-up has certainly rattled the nerves of its neighbours as it develops new stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and missiles
CHINA has today unveiled its largest rise in defence spending in three years as it bids to dominate the world with a vast superpower military.
The 2018 defence budget will be 1.11trillion yuan (£127billion), according to a bombshell report issued at the opening of China’s annual meeting of parliament.
The defence spending figure is closely watched around the world for clues about China’s strategic intentions as it develops new military capabilities, including stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles.
China has also been developing a whole next-generation battery of weapons including hypersonic missiles and electromagnetic railguns.
Military bosses are bent on transforming the armed forces into the world’s most powerful and have set a target of 8.1 per cent growth.
Sam Roggeveen, a visiting fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of the Australian National University in Canberra, said: “The pace and scale of this build-up is really dramatic.
“It is extremely alarming for Australia and many other countries in the region.”
In July China sent a clear message to the world when it staged an awesome display of might in the biggest military parade ever to mark the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army.
The military build-up is certainly rattling the nerves of its neighbours, particularly because of its increasingly assertive stance in territorial disputes in the Himalayan border regions and Taiwan.
But it is South China Sea where war may well break out – potentially sucking in the US Navy and air-force.
Mr Roggeveen said: “There is every indication that China wants to expand what it will call defence capabilities in the South China Sea.
“I expect eventually we will see warships and aircraft there regularly, if not based there permanently.”
Premier Li Keqiang told the opening session in an address, China will “advance all aspects of military training and war preparedness, and firmly and resolvedly safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests”.
But 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.
State media has quoted experts as saying that China needs at least six carriers – an endeavour expected to take decades.
The United States operates 10 and plans to build two more.