BEIJING: China today announced it would hike its defence budget by 11.2 per cent to a whopping USD 106.4 billion, pushing its military spending for the first time to the triple digit, a move that may fuel concerns among neighbours and others about its growing might in Asia Pacific.
Beijing this year proposes to spend on defence 670 billion yuan (USD 106.4 billion), which is an increase of 11.2 per cent over the previous year, Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for China's top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), said at a press conference here.
China, which has the world's largest standing army of 2.3 million, had been hiking its defence budget by double-digits during most part of the last decade. Analysts believe its actual spending is much higher than the official figures.
Last year, the country unveiled its first aircraft carrier, a former Soviet-era vessel which is expected to enhance the reach of the Chinese navy.
According to the official figures, China had spent about USD 92 billion on defence last year, which represented a 12.7 per cent increase over the 2010 budget of USD 77 billion.
This year's increase would represent a hike of USD 14.4 billion.
Besides, the specified military spending, which many western analysts say is far higher than the official version, China last year spent over USD 100 billion on internal security.
Analysts say the hike in China's defence budget, which is now almost triple of the Indian defence spending, may impact New Delhi's military expenditure.
India had allocated USD 36.04 billion for defence last year, which represented an 11.59 per cent growth over the 2010 budget.
China's rapid military build-up has triggered concerns among several countries, including the US and Japan. The US had also recently announced a defence strategy focussed on countering China's rising power.
Though last year China's military spending rose by 12.7 per cent compared to 11.2 per cent this year, it is still likely to spark concerns over China's growing military might in the Asia-Pacific region.
China is having disputes with countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia over its claim to almost all of the South China Sea.
The latest hike in the Chinese budget followed a Jane's report released recently which projected that China would double its defence spending by 2015, surpassing the combined defence budgets of India and 10 other Asian countries.
The European think tank put last year's military spending by China to around USD 119.8 billion, which it claimed may touch USD 238.2 billion in 2015.
China, however, denied the report saying that it was speculative.