China will boost military spending by 11.2 percent this year, the government said on Sunday, unveiling Beijing's first defense budget since President Barack Obama launched a pivot to reinforce U.S. influence across the Asia-Pacific.
The rise was announced by Li Zhaoxing, the spokesman for China's parliament, and will bring official spending on the People's Liberation Army to 670.2 billion yuan for 2012, after a 12.7 percent increase last year and a nearly unbroken string of double-digit rises across over two decades .
China is committed to the path of peaceful development and follows a defensive national defense policy, Li told a news conference ahead of the annual session of the National People's Congress, the Communist Party-controlled parliament that will approve the budget.
China has 1.3 billion people, we have a large territory and a long coast line but our defense spending is relatively low compared with other major countries, he added, in comments carried live on state television.
Beijing's public budget is widely thought to undercount real spending on its rapid military modernization, which has unnerved Asian neighbors and drawn repeated calls from Washington for China to share more about its intentions.
The Pentagon's budget, however, still far exceeds the PLA's, something China likes to point out.
China's defense spending as a share of GDP in 2011 was only 1.28 percent. For the United States, Britain and other countries the figures all exceeded two percent, Li said.
China's limited military strength is aimed at safeguarding sovereignty, national security and territorial integrity. It will not pose a threat at all to other countries.
Obama has sought to reassure Asian allies that the United States will stay a key player in the area, and the Pentagon has said it will rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.
China has sought to balance long-standing wariness about U.S. moves with a desire for steady relations with Washington, especially as both governments focus on domestic politics this year, when Obama faces a re-election fight and China's ruling Communist Party undergoes a leadership handover.