China will increase its military spending by 7.1% this year, its Finance Ministry announced on Saturday amid heightened global tension fuelled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Belga news agency reports.
The increase was higher than last year’s hike, which was 6.8%.
This year’s defense budget is 1,450 billion yuan, equivalent to 230 billion US dollars, making it the second largest defense budget in the world, after that of the United States, which has earmarked 740 billion US dollars for military spending in 2022.
The increase is higher than expected GDP growth for 2022, set at 5.5% by Prime Minister Li Keqiang.
It comes amid an increase in global tension due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which Beijing has thus far refrained from condemning.
Any increase in spending on China’s armed forces risks fueling mistrust by its neighbours, worried by a lack of transparency on what exactly the military budget covers.