China to ease military build-up due to economic constraints

Budget for defence projected to rise at a slower rate

China to ease military build-up due to economic constraints

National People's Congress spokeswoman Fu Ying. Picture by: Ng Han Guan / AP/Press Association Images

The acceleration of China's defence spending is set to end this year, with its budget forecast to increase at its slowest pace since 2010.

Fu Ying, spokeswoman for China's National People's Congress, said spending would rise by approximately 7-8% this year. 

The decision owes to China's decelerating economy and had not been anticipated by military experts. The move away from double-digit increases will be music to the ears of many around the region who have been concerned about China's assertive stance in recent territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.

Defence spending had previously been budgeted to rise 10.1% to 886.9 billion yuan ($135.39 billion). That massive figure still only represents about 25% of the US defence budget, which stands at $573 billion for 2016.

Bonji Obara, Tokyo Foundation think-tank member and former military attaché at Japan's embassy in Beijing, told Reuters: "One simple reason for the lower increase is that double-digit growth is now harder to sustain. But another reason is that China's anti-corruption campaign means less money is being siphoned off and spending has become more efficient."

The confirmed figures will be announced on Saturday, when the annual session of China's legislative body opens.