China wants to significantly increase military spending | Free press

Beijing (AP) – China plans to significantly increase its defense spending. Against the backdrop of tensions with the US, India, Taiwan and in the controversial South China Sea, Chinese experts expect growth of about 7 percent this year, according to state media.

The new military budget will be presented on Friday at the start of the annual meeting of the Chinese People’s Congress. The sharp increase is partly due to the expected strong growth of the second largest economy this year and “difficult military threats” to China.

“The projected increase of about 7 percent reflects both Beijing’s ambitions and concerns about the current international environment,” said expert Helena Lagarda of the China Merics Institute in Berlin. “From the point of view of the Communist Party, a strong, modern army is a prerequisite for China to become a world power by 2049.” It also sends a “strong signal” to the US and other Western countries that military modernization remains a “high priority” for the leadership, despite the difficulties created by the corona pandemic.

The session of the Chinese parliament also discussed the new five-year plan for 2021 to 2025. By charting the course, China wants to make itself more economically and technologically independent from the rest of the world. Prime Minister Li Keqiang opened the suspected week-long meeting of about 3,000 MPs in the Great Hall of the People on Friday with his work report.

Due to the pandemic, the plenary session had to be postponed to May last year. The fact that it will take place again in March this year, as usual, shows the normalization in China, which hardly counts any more local infections. The most populous country has largely gotten the virus under control with curfews and mass testing for millions, as well as contact tracking, quarantine and strict access restrictions.

According to Chinese state media, a “highlight” of the annual conference will also be a planned electoral reform for Hong Kong, which will ensure that China’s special administrative region will be run “by patriots only” in the future. Time and again, high-ranking politicians, including President Xi Jinping, had repeated this formula without giving details of how exactly the electoral law could be changed.

The “Global Times”, published by the party body “Volkszeitung”, outlined a plan that would further massively limit the influence of pro-democracy forces. The newspaper spoke of “loopholes” in the electoral system that need to be closed. For example, a Beijing-controlled body could first examine all candidates running for election in Hong Kong on their political views.

It is eagerly awaited whether the prime minister will also present a growth target for this year at the start. Due to the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, Li Keqiang had given up last year. China was the only major economy to achieve growth in 2020 despite the Corona crisis: 2.3 percent. Due to the ongoing extensive program to stimulate the economy, the Monetary Fund (IMF) even expects growth of 8.1 percent in China this year.

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