Beijing: China has announced a military budget of 1.11 trillion yuan ($175bn; ú126bn) for the coming year. The figure, an 8% increase on last year, was announced as the annual meeting of parliament got under way in Beijing. Prime Minister Li Keqiang also set a target of 6.5% growth for the economy.
The National People’s Congress (NPC) is also expected to remove the two-term presidential limit, enabling Xi Jinping to remain in office indefinitely. The move, which was long expected butáhas been controversial even in China, has helped cement Mr Xi’s status as the most powerful leader since Chairman Mao Zedong. Thousands of Chinese legislators at Monday’s meeting burst into applause when the plan to scrap the two-term limit was read out to the chamber. The vote on the proposal will take place on 11 March and is expected to be unanimously approved.
The NPC is largely a rubberstamp parliament, endorsing decisions already made by the Communist Party. Its delegates, about 3,000 of them representing all provinces and regions, are technically elected, but in practice, hand-picked by the Party. The gathering takes place under tight security – known dissidents are routinely removed from the capital before it takes place. The government has said it will focus on three main goals over the coming year: tackling China’s exposure to financial risk, reining in rampant pollution and continuing to combat poverty.
In his opening report to parliament, Mr Li said the army must be “strong as stone” in the face of “profound changes in the national security environment”.