China lowers 2018 fiscal deficit target to 2.6 pct of GDP

Annual budgeted defence spending rose by 8.1 per cent to 1.1 trillion yuan ($US224 billion), which was a bigger rise than the prior year.

The spending figure is one of the few pieces of official data available as the USA and Asian neighbours seek to gauge the pace and intentions of China's military development.

Speaking at the opening of the parliamentary session, Prime Minister Li Keqiang said that Beijing will never tolerate any "separatist self-governance schemes in Taiwan and preserve China's territorial integrity".

He also said the military, the government, and its people must always be as "strong as stone".

Li also said China had basically completed efforts to cut back its armed forces by 300,000, a move President Xi Jinping announced in 2015 to improve efficiency that had caused unease in the ranks. "Otherwise it could totally realize double-digit increases in its defense expenditure", the newspaper underscored. China is the second largest spender on defence after the US.

In 2017 China spent 151 billion United States dollars on defense.

But a year ago numerous same commentators claimed that the new rate of "around 6.5% would see a slowing in activity, because it was down from the 6.7% growth rate seen in 2016".

In January, the Department of Defense published a summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which singled out China and Russian Federation as revanchist powers that are the "central challenge to USA prosperity and security".

China also set its consumer price index at "around 3 percent" compared with 3 percent previous year, as widely expected.

China aims to maintain inflation level at around 3 per cent and create over 11 million new urban jobs, reports Xinhua news agency.

The figure compares with a 7 percent increase last year and 7.6 percent in 2016, which marked the first time in six years that growth in spending was not in double figures.

In Li's almost 2-hour report, Li mentioned Taiwan twice, with less time spent on Taiwan policy compared to his last year's report at the 19 Party Congress, in which he reaffirmed Xi Jinping's six principles, including the "One China" principle and the 1992 Consensus, according to Apple Daily.

GDP growth target set at 6.5%, the same as 2017's target, but 0.4% down from China's officially recorded growth for past year.

"The pace and scale of this build-up is really dramatic".

And the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said recently that the country's debt had ballooned and was now equivalent to 234% of the total output. It is being widely reported that the countries and the United States want India to play a more active role in warding off the Chinese challenge in the ocean.

But many foreign analysts and diplomats say China under-reports the figure.

Xi has promised to make China's military forces "world class" by the middle of the century.

  • Zachary Reyes