China’s military budget – the second largest in the world after the US – is set to increase by 6.8% in 2021, the finance ministry announced Friday.
Military tensions have dramatically increased over the past year between China and rival powers including the United States and India, with flashpoints like the Himalayan border, Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Beijing plans to spend 1.36 trillion yuan ($210 billion) on defense, which is still less than a third of Washington’s military budget.
The growth rate, up from 2020’s 6.6%, was revealed by the ministry at the opening of the government’s annual legislative meetings.
In recent years, China has poured trillions of yuan into the modernization of its military, which it aims to transform into a world-class force rivaling that of the US.
Beijing has over the past year repeatedly used its military might to threaten the self-ruled island of Taiwan – flying fighter jets into its airspace and staging invasion drills. It claims sovereignty over the island.
This saber-rattling has been met with frequent US warship patrols in the nearby South China Sea.
“China’s defense budget has increased rapidly in absolute terms over the last two decades,” said Adam Ni, analyst at the China Policy Center in Canberra, Australia.
“This reflects China’s rising economic power and determination to underpin its strategic ambitions with hard power.”
The official figure does not show the whole picture, since it “probably does not capture all defense-related spending”, he added.
China is on a quest to transform the People’s Liberation Army into a “fully modernized” fighting force by 2027, and a “world-class” military rivaling the US by 2050.
The push for technologically advanced equipment has meant that costs have “skyrocketed,” Ni said.
“The external threats faced by China – including severe challenges posed by the US, especially its never-ending interference on the Taiwan issue – require it to strengthen its defense capabilities,” said Chinese military commentator Song Zhongping.
Over the past year, China has launched three new amphibious assault ships, and it is currently building a third aircraft carrier.