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China said on Monday its military budget this year would grow 8.1 percent from 2017, a larger increase than the previous two years even as the country kept its overall economic growth target the same.
The 2018 defense budget will be 1.11 trillion yuan ($175 billion), according to a budget report issued at the opening of the country's annual meeting of parliament.
Last year the defense budget was set to increase by just 7 percent, to 1.044 trillion yuan ($164.60 billion) about one-quarter of the proposed U.S. defense spending for the year.
The budget increase, a figure that is closely watched around the world for clues to China's strategic intentions, comes as economic growth has picked up, expanded 6.9 percent last year, the first acceleration in annual growth since 2010.
China kept its 2018 economic growth target at around 6.5 percent, Premier Li Keqiang said in remarks prepared for delivery at the parliament's opening session, the same as in 2017 despite the pick up in growth.
China will "advance all aspects of military training and war preparedness, and firmly and resolvedly safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests," Li said.
"Faced with profound changes in the national security environment" the absolute leadership of the military by the ruling Communist Party must be observed, and the unity between the government and the military and the people and the military must always be "strong as stone," he said.