China to adjust trade growth pattern: commerce minister

This year, Premier Li Keqiang took 90 minutes to deliver the 20,000 word annual report.

However, analysts say China's moderate growth of its military budget is more a reflection of its slowing economy than an attempt to appear non-aggressive on the global scene.

Parliament spokeswoman Fu Ying, who announced the increase, said defense spending would account for about 1.3 percent of GDP, the same level as the past few years.

SAIC General Motors Corp, a venture with China's largest carmaker producing Cadillac, Buick and Chevrolet vehicles in Shanghai, was fined 201 million yuan (US$29 million) on December 23 a year ago.

China will increase its defense budget by around seven percent in 2017, as it guards against "outside meddling" in its disputes, an official from the top legislative body said, adding that the "gap in capabilities" with U.S. is enormous.

Top leaders at the National People's Congress are tolerating slightly slower economic growth this year to give them more room to push through some painful reforms to deal with a rapid build-up in debt.

The announcement marks the second consecutive year that the increase in China's defence spending has not reached a double-digit percentage rise following almost two decades at or above 10%.

Much of China's budget this year was expected to go for the development of navy as the second largest economy looks to expand its influence beyond its shores.

The finance ministry pledged in its work report released on Sunday to clamp down on local government debt risk.

State news agency Xinhua also has yet to report the figure.

China aims to create more than 11 million new urban jobs this year, even as employment pressure grows.

Air pollution is a hot-button issue this year after swathes of northern China were blanketed under toxic smog since end of last year (2016).

Li promised the government would "make our skies blue again" with pollution-reduction measures.

"An important reason for stressing the need to maintain stable growth is to ensure employment and improve people's lives", Li said.

China will "basically" scrap all high-emission vehicles and pursue a three-per-cent cut in emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide - key components of the toxic smog. "The strengthening of China's [military] capabilities help preserve peace and stability in the region, not the opposite".

The drive to reform bloated industries and reduce pollution will include cutting steel production capacity by 50 million metric tonnes and coal by 150 million metric tonnes, Li said.

Still, the growth in spending is faster than the overall economy, reflecting Mr. Xi's determination to continue the military modernization program, according to experts. China considers this expansion as its legal right and a vital way to protect one of the country's main shipping lanes.

"We will continue to implement, both to the letter and in spirit, the principle of 'one country, two systems, '" Li said, stressing the principle will be steadfastly applied in Hong Kong and Macao without being bent or distorted.

  • Leroy Wright