China boosting defense budget to $224B over Taiwan strife, Russia, Ukraine war

Chinese officials Sunday said they are ramping up the country’s $200-billion-plus defense budget, as fears of an invasion of Taiwan and China’s collusion with Russia over Ukraine continue.

The authoritarian government is boosting its annual military budget by about 7%, to $224 billion, which is roughly twice as much as it was 10 years ago — although still just over a quarter of what the US shells out on defense spending.

The US allocated $858 billion to the Pentagon for the 2023 fiscal year.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced his country’s budget rise — which is in line with last year’s percentage increase — while speaking to the Communist Party’s parliament, a group that rubber-stamps it.

The leader also touted “major achievements” by China’s People’s Liberation Army, the world’s largest military force.

The nuclear-weapon-holding superpower also boasts the world’s largest navy and has the biggest aviation force in the Indo-Pacific.

President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping arrived at a Sunday parliamentary session in Beijing Sunday.
Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China, arrives at Sunday’s parliamentary session in Beijing.
Xinhua/Sipa USA

“We [remain] committed to the party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces,” Li said.

“The people’s armed forces intensified efforts to enhance their political loyalty, to strengthen themselves through reform, scientific and technological advances and personnel training and to practice law-based governance.”

Li offered no specifics about the country’s “more modernized and capable fighting force” but bragged of the military’s border defense, disaster-rescue capabilities and enforcement of the regime’s tyrannical “zero-COVID” policy.

A missile is fired from an aircraft carrier
The Chinese naval destroyer Baotou takes part in a joint naval exercise with Russia in the East China Sea late last year.
Xinhua/Sipa USA

“We should consolidate and enhance integration of national strategies and strategic capabilities and step up capacity building in science, technology and industries related to national defense,” he said.

China spent 1.7% of its GDP on defense funding in 2021, less than half of the 3.5% allocated by Washington lawmakers as the US grapples with significant overseas obligations.

China’s recent annual defense-spending increases have been less than its previous double-digit rates. But they are still notable, given Beijing has faced ballooning government debt and a stagnant economy which has yet to recover from the country’s brutal prolonged lockdown.

Chinese soldiers participate in war drills
Taiwan has increased its military drills over threats from China.

Chinese officials said most of the defense spending increases would be directed at improving welfare among troops. But the budget announcement also came as the PLA has been making recent strides to expand its overseas presences in Djibouti and Cambodia, where it refurbished a naval base near the disputed South China Sea.

The efforts have worried Western allies, who are concerned China’s Communist leaders will try to reclaim their democratic breakaway territory of Taiwan by force. Such fears have prompted a steady flow of weapon sales to the island from the US and a extended mandatory military service for the Taiwanese.

Li said China has followed the party’s “overall policy for the new era on resolving the Taiwan question and resolutely fought against separatism and countered interference.”

Western leaders have also expressed concern that China will provide lethal military aid to Russia, as the Kremlin struggles in its more than yearlong quest to capture Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said such a move would set off World War III.

With AP