China has reduced army size by 300,000: Li

BEIJING, March 5 (INP): China has basically completed the task of reducing the armed forces by 300,000 troops, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday.

Li made the remarks when delivering his annual government work report to lawmakers during the opening meeting of the first session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s national legislature, held in Beijing from March 5 to 20.

Over the past five years, under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) and the Central Military Commission, China has embarked on a new stage in strengthening and energizing the armed forces, Li said.

“We have undertaken major missions involving the protection of maritime rights, countering terrorism and maintaining stability, disaster rescue and relief, international peacekeeping, escort services in the Gulf of Aden, and humanitarian rescue.”

Military equipment has been significantly modernized, and China has deepened military-civilian integration, Premier Li noted.

China will raise its defense budget by 8.1 percent in 2018, according to a budget report to be submitted to the national legislature Monday, up from last year’s 7 percent.

The 2018 defense budget will be 1.11 trillion yuan (175 billion U.S. dollars), according to the report available to media before the first session of the 13th National People’s Congress opens Monday morning.

Although slightly higher than the previous two years, the growth rate is the third time to dip into the single digit since 2013, following 7.6 percent in 2016 and 7 percent in 2017.

China’s defense budget takes up a smaller share of its gross domestic product (GDP) and national fiscal expenditure compared with other major countries, said Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the first annual session of the 13th NPC, at a press conference on Sunday.

Its military spending per capita is also lower than other major countries, Zhang said.

“A large part of the growth of the defense budget is to make up for the low military spending in the past and is mainly used to upgrade equipment and improve the welfare of servicemen and women and the living and training conditions of grassroots troops,” he said.
INP/J/AJ