China is planning a double-digit rise in military spending this year, an increase authorities say is in line with the country’s economic development and defense needs.

Li Zhaoxing, the spokesman for the National People’s Congress, announced on Sunday the overall figure for China’s 2012 military spending.

Li says the defense budget will be about $110 billion (670.2 billion RMB), which represents an 11.2 percent increase over what was spent last year.

This compares to a 12.7 percent increase in military spending last year and is in line with a nearly unbroken string of double-digit increases over the past two decades.

The spokesman says China has the world’s largest population, a big territory and a long coastline, but only spends 1.28 percent of its gross domestic product on defense spending. By comparison, he points to other developed countries like the United States and Britain, which spend more than 2 percent of their national budgets on defense.

Li says China is committed to a path of peaceful development and pursues a defense policy that is defensive in nature.

Many analysts say the budget that Beijing announces publicly understates real spending on rapid military modernization.

Arthur Ding, an international relations professor at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University, says he believes some of the money will go to raising salaries.

Ding says, “So, I guess the military personnel, the salaries, will take a major portion of the increase and also they are recruiting, they are somewhat switching to voluntary force gradually, I would say, and (to maintain a) voluntary force would take tremendous budget, tremendous money to recruit sufficient manpower.”

At the same time, he expects some of the money will go to improving military hardware.

“I would say the satellite, or development of satellite, will be continued, and the new fighter jet development and so forth. I think probably the priority would be the anti-access capability for developing the anti-access mission,” says Ding.

An anti-access strategy would be aimed at interfering with the ability of other militaries to operate in nearby military theaters.

This defense budget is China’s first since President Barack Obama launched an initiative to reinforce U.S. influence in the Asia-Pacific region and reassure allies that Washington will remain a key player there.

The Chinese spokesman’s comments came one day before the opening of the annual legislative session of the National People’s Congress, which starts Monday.

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China Boosts 2012 Military Spending

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