China’s 2016 defense budget may see a sharp year-on-year increase consistent with structural army reforms and South China Sea tensions, national media reported Wednesday.
The annual military budget is expected to be presented at the annual National People’s Congress (NPC) legislative assembly on March 5 in Beijing.
Observers cited by the Global Times daily said the possible defense budget increase would be “justified as the nation’s armed forces undergo structural reforms to boost their combat capability and face an increasingly complicated military situation as a rising power.”
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post cited anonymous sources close to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) this week forecasting a 20-percent hike to the budget, the highest since 2007.
“I think the budget reported in the SCMP might be too high,” Shanghai-based military expert Ni Lexiong told the Times.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced last September that the PLA would cut its ranks by 300,000 to total 2 million troops by 2017, still maintaining its lead as the world’s largest army.
The country’s defense budget ranks second in volume to that of the United States. China’s military expenditures neared $130 billion last year, a 12.2 percent year-on-year increase from 2013.