China Refuses to Slow GDP Growth, Doubles Defense Spending
China's 2014 growth target will be 7.5%, which is the same as last year, but military spending will be 12.2% up.
The leadership of China announced its goals for 2014 at the opening of the annual session of its Parliament, The National People's Congress.
The Beijing meeting gathers 3 000 legislators from across China every year and sets the country's top priorities for the course of the next 12 months.
The announcement that China will keep current GDP growth rate is expected to draw criticism as the new leadership, which came to power in March 2013, had asserted it would hold up its GDP growth to address its environmental, social and economic issues.
Acknowledging his country has many problems people are unhappy about, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang spoke of "painful structural adjustments" that are needed in the country and declared "war on pollution, corruption and terrorism", as the BBC quotes him as saying.
Although growth rate is planned to be maintained by the export-driven industry, attempts will be made at boosting domestic consumption while at the same time keeping inflation at about 3.5%.
The new military budget is USD 131.57 B, with the 12.2% increase mostly caused by a plan to develop more high-tech weapons and to strengthen coastal and air defenses, as Al Jazeera English reports.
Li Keqiang also explained that research on national defense will also be boosted, and a modernization of Chinese armed forces will be conducted according to the needs of the information age.
China, which has the world's second-largest defense budget, has announced double-digit increases to it for years on the grounds it is still much smaller than that of US (in 2013, Beijing put aside USD 112.2 B, whilst the US spent USD 600 B).
Defense spending increase was declared amid tensions between China and Japan over a group of islands which are claimed by both countries and which occasionally raise fears of a conflict in the East China Sea.
Chinese officials have also repeatedly declared they have sovereignty over 90% of the South China Sea, which, like waters around the controversial archipelago, are believed to hold significant oil and gas reserves. China's claim, however, has been contested for years by The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.