China targets GDP growth of 6.5% while moving to cut debt

Erika Holt
March 7, 2018

China on Monday unveiled its largest defense spending increase in three years, setting an 8.1 percent growth target this year, fueling an ambitious military modernization program and making its neighbors nervous.

Though China announced its military spending at about Dollars 150.5 billion past year, observers say it is considerably higher, considering it is now building two more aircraft carriers in addition to the one already in service as well as addition of new jet fighters, including stealth fighter J-20.

Premier Li Kequiang said in his opening address that China will "advance all aspects of military training and war preparedness, and firmly and resolvedly safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests".

While China is aiming for a narrower official deficit, leaders still plan to expand the issuance of special objective bonds, which are sold by local governments to finance items that aren't included in the general public budget and not counted in the deficit ratio released annually.

The approximately 2,000 non-Party members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which includes many notable business people, celebrities, and many more tech entrepreneurs than previous years, according to SCMP. "We would like to see China be more transparent about its defence policy", Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga said.

China's "intent is not clearly understood", he said.

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Much of the efforts will focus on regions with significant minority populations which have struggled with poverty for decades, such as Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as parts of Yunnan and Gansu provinces, said Premier Li Keqiang at the opening session of China's annual Parliament meetings yesterday.

The Ministry of Finance said on Monday that it is targeting a budget deficit of 2.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) for this year, compared with 2017's 3.0 percent target, which was met. "What is unclear, however, is whether the United States will want to rise to that challenge", he added.

China has no desire to overturn the existing global order and its increasingly powerful military does not constitute a threat to others, the spokesman for the country's ceremonial legislature said on Sunday.

"The government still set a growth target for 2018 despite the rhetoric about moving away from the speed of growth to quality of growth", UBS economists said in a report.

China will also promote consumption upgrading and develop new forms and models of consumption, extend preferential policies on purchase tax on new-energy vehicles by another three years, and rescind all local policies that restrict sales of non-local second-hand vehicles, Li said. He also said China will actively expand imports this year as it aims to further open up its market.

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