China's defence spending in 2017 to rise around 7 per cent

"But in the meantime, we must also have the capability to defend our sovereignty, our rights and interests", she said.

Ms Fu dismissed concerns that China posed a threat to the region with its expanding military.

The increase in spending still gives China the world's second biggest defense budget after the U.S. It continues a robust modernization program that over the past quarter-century has transformed the Chinese military into a formidable regional power and burgeoning global one, with outlays going to build naval, air force and other capabilities that allow Beijing to project power far from the Chinese mainland. Past year saw a 7.6 per cent rise over 2015.

That trend reflects "the new normal, an acknowledgement that Chinese growth is plateauing as a whole", said Alexander Neill, a senior fellow for Asia-Pacific security for the International Institute for Strategic Studies based in Singapore.

China has been rapidly modernising its armed forces in recent years as its economy expands.

Wang Hongguang, former deputy commander of Nanjing military area command, also expressed concerns about Trump's potential impact on relations with China, and is watching closely whether the reasonably smooth talks between the USA president and State Councillor Yang Jiechi would signal any turnaround. The percentage increases do not track in USA dollar figures because of variations in the exchange rate.

Last year, China announced a planned military budget of USD138.6 billion, showing a year-on-year increase of 7.6%.

China has said that it will increase military spending by about 7% this year, just days after Donald Trump outlined a boost to the United States defence budget. "But in fact there is a still a huge gap in ability between the US and China, which is still a developing country".

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"President Xi Jinping and President Trump have had two direct phone calls, and the message was very clear, which is that there must be more cooperation between China and the United States so we become good partners", she said, according to the New York Times.

After increasing military spending at double-digit rates for most of the past 25 years, the Chinese government began slowing the pace in recent years as the economy began downshifting.

"China's defense budget is formulated on the basis of its own needs and the domestic economic situation".

Fu went on to say that concerns over navigational freedom in the South China Sea are misleading and uncalled for. Beijing has never renounced its vow to use force to take control of the island it considers its own territory, and tensions have risen since the election past year of independence-leaning Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Although there are concerns about China's increasing military strength, especially in light of growing tension in the South China Sea region, Fu rightly said that the USA military was still vastly superior to that of China.

An American aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, has been patrolling in the South China Sea for much of the past two weeks.

"As to how to the situation develops in future, that depends on US intentions".

For major powers like the U.S. and Japan, 7 per cent would be too high an increase "because of their apparently adversarial security relationship" with China, he said.

  • Desiree Holland