China on Tuesday rejected accusations that its defence budget lacked transparency after Premier Li Keqiang omitted the actual figure in his report submitted last week to the parliament. Shrugging off concerns, China said there was no opacity about its military expenditure. “Let me be very clear, there is no such thing as opacity in China’s military spending,” Finance Minister Xiao Jie told reporters here.
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The actual amount was not mentioned in Premier Li’s working report submitted to the National People’s Congress on March 4, though a Chinese official announced that the defence budget for the Communist nation was increased by 7 per cent.
The NPC is China’s highest organ of the state power.
The omission of the amount sparked speculation and concern that China was keeping its military spending under wraps, even though defence allocations required legislative sanction.
A finance ministry official told state-run Xinhua news agency on Monday that China’s “military spending this year will stand at 1.04 trillion yuan (about USD 152 billion) with 1.02 trillion yuan from the central budget”.
China’s defence budget used to be included in a report on the draft central and local budget proposals submitted to lawmakers for review and approval during the annual NPC.
This year, however, the report available to media did not mention any figure.
“We made some new changes in the way we compiled the files,” Xiao said defending the omission. Xiao explained that the defence budget, along with the budgets for foreign affairs and public security, was included in a draft budget submitted to lawmakers.
China’s defence spending is the second-largest in the world after the US, and is three times that of India’s.
President Donald Trump has announced a 10-per cent increase in the defence budget of the US, which was expected to take America’s defence spending to about USD 654 billion.