China has announced plans to boost its military budget by 7.5 percent this year - the smallest increase in more than two decades. The figures were unveiled at a news conference, Thursday, to preview the annual session of China's legislature, which begins Friday.
Li Zhaoxing, spokesman of the National People's Congress, says China's new military budget for 2010 will be nearly $78 billion, or 7.5 percent more than the year before.
Li says the increase is smaller than in previous years. He says the defense spending increases will mainly be used to diversify military capabilities and support reform of the armed forces. He says the money also will be used to help raise the living standards of the men and women in the military.
He says China's defense spending is low, despite the country's physical size and population.
He say the amount China spends on the military will only account for one-point-four percent of the country's gross domestic product. He compared this with more than four percent for the United States and about two percent for Britain, France and Russia.
Many analysts say the official figure accounts for only a part of actual military spending and have called for more transparency in China's military expenditures.
Li says his country has submitted annual defense spending reports to the United Nations and submits a major defense report every two years.
China has been taking a more active role in international military affairs. A naval task force set off from southern China, Thursday, to replace Chinese military ships already patrolling in the Gulf of Aden, to protect international shipping from pirates off the coast of Somalia.
The release of the military budget follows recent and repeated protests by Beijing about the American sale of arms to Taiwan, an island China regards as part of its territory.
Li says China considers the people on Taiwan "kith and kin," and he says blood is thicker than water. In regard to the U.S. arms sale to Taiwan, Li says it is like two brothers embracing, when someone extends a dagger to one of them.
Relations between China and Taiwan have improved in recent months, following decades of hostility. However, China still keeps hundreds of missiles aimed at the island.
Meanwhile, Li repeated his country's position that it is strongly opposed to foreign leaders meeting Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. President Obama met with the Dalai Lama in Washington, last month.
China accuses the Tibetan leader of seeking independence for Tibet. He denies that accusation and says he is only seeking greater cultural and religious autonomy for his homeland.
Meanwhile, Li assured journalists that the situation in the restive minority region, Xinjiang is stable. Xinjiang has a large population of mostly Muslim Uighurs and in July saw some of the country's worst ethnic violence.
Li says stability was restored to Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, thanks to the Chinese Communist Party, the government - both central and local - and the armed forces.