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China raises defense budget

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Budget increase 'normal'

Hi-tech warfare

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BEIJING, China -- China has raised its defense budget by 17.7 percent for 2001 in a bid to improve its 2.5 million-strong People's Liberation Army.

The hike, to a spending of 140 billion yuan ($17 billion), was revealed in the National People's Congress (NPC) budget report delivered by Finance Minister Xiang Huaicheng Tuesday.

The military has spoken out in defense of the boost, saying it should not cause alarm among neighboring countries.

"China's military outlay is smaller than those of the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan," said General Song Qingwei.

"The budget increase will not constitute a threat to other countries."

Budget increase 'normal'

Xiang told parliamentarians the budget increase was mainly to raise soldiers' salaries and to "prepare for the needs of defensive warfare under hi-tech conditions."

It is understood army paychecks will go up by 25 per cent this year, compared with 30 per cent for civil servants.

PLA deputy to the congress, General Li Jinai, said it was "very normal" for the army to have a budget increase.

"Compared with other countries, China's military expenditure as a percentage of GDP is very low," he told reporters at the Great Hall of the People.

Other army officers present at the congress hinted the increase was in response to perceived threats, including Washington's decision to deploy a national missile defense system.

General Du Tiehuan, Political Commissar of the Beijing Military Region, said China was "resolutely against" the U.S. developing an anti-missile defense system because it would "wreak havoc on the military balance in the world."

He added the budget increase was "very small because our total outlay was not even 5% of that of the U.S. forces."

Hi-tech warfare

The Liberation Army Daily and other PLA mouthpieces have during the past two weeks played up threats posed to China by new weapons systems adopted in the U.S., Japan and India.

Western military analysts have said that since the publicized military budget did not cover expenditures on arms development and procurement, it was likely the PLA had been given substantially larger sums for research and development and for buying sophisticated weapons from Russia and other suppliers.

Both Russia and China hold negative opinions of the U.S. plans to build a national missile defense system.

Following decades of Soviet-era rivalry, China has become an important partner for Russia and the top customer to its ailing military industrial complex, purchasing billions of dollars worth of fighters, missiles, submarines and destroyers.

President Jiang Zemin, also chairman of the Central Military Commission, has repeatedly stressed that China must be prepared for "the new era of hi-tech warfares."

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Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

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