China to spend 1.19 trillion RMB on military in 2019

The figure marks a 7.5 percent budget increase from 2018

Delegates from China's PLA

Delegates from China's PLA (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China’s military spending for 2019 is to increase by 7.5 percent, despite a slowing annual GDP growth rate.

The government released its annual defense budget on Tuesday and revealed it is to spend 1.19 trillion RMB (NT$5.4 trillion) on defense operations this fiscal year. Although the increase does not match last year’s 8.1 percent, it is still a significant surge in spending and approximately 14 times the defense budget of Taiwan.

The impact of China’s economic trade war with the U.S. recently led Premier Li Keqiang to lower the country's 2019 growth target to between 6 and 6.5 percent. Beijing’s willingness to increase military spending despite slowing growth demonstrate’s the state’s undeterred drive to achieve the most powerful military in the world.

Reuters reports Li told parliament, “We will implement the military strategy for the new era, strengthen military training under combat conditions, and firmly protect China’s sovereignty, security and development interest.”

He also added, “We will further implement the military-civilian integration strategy, and speed up efforts to make innovations in defense-related science and technology.”

The news follows an announcement from the Pentagon last month that China already leads the world in some fields of military technology. The controversial acquisition of technology (through any means possible) by the People’s Liberation Army has led it to be “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon system in the world,” the U.S. Defense Department report states.

According to Chinese state-run news source Xinhua, 2019 marks the fourth consecutive year the country’s budgeted growth rate has dipped into single digit figures, showing China’s economy may be in the least having some impact on its military ambitions.

Despite outpacing regional rivals such as Japan and South Korea in military spending, China also still falls behind the U.S., for whose 2019 defense budget was billed at over US$686 billion (NT21.16 trillion).