BEIJING — China's military budget will grow by about 10 percent in the coming year, a legislative spokeswoman said Wednesday, despite slowing economic growth that fell to 7.4 percent last year and is expected to further decline in 2015. It would be a slightly smaller rise than last year, but would reflect the fifth year in a row of double-digit increases, bringing the total military budget to about $145 billion.
The Pentagon and global arms bodies estimate actual spending may be anywhere from 40 to 50 percent more because the budget doesn't include the costs of high-tech weapons imports, research and development, and other key programs.
The higher spending is seen as a reflection of China's growing economic might and its desire to assert itself in the region and internationally. Beijing says the bigger budgets are merely aimed at modernizing and improving conditions for the 2.3 million-member strong People's Liberation Army, the world's largest standing military.
The planned increase of about 10 percent — to be confirmed Thursday at the opening of the National People's Congress — is in line with the overall increase in government spending planned for 2015, NPC spokeswoman Fu Ying told a news conference. "China has a tougher road to travel than other large nations in terms of national defense modernization" Fu said.