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Business News/ News / World/  China drops 'peaceful reunification' reference to Taiwan, raises defence spending by 7.2%
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China drops 'peaceful reunification' reference to Taiwan, raises defence spending by 7.2%

Amid rising tensions, China boosts defence spending by 7.2% in 2024, omitting 'peaceful reunification' mention in the budget report, indicating a more aggressive stance towards Taiwan.

China has been increasing its military budget. It has been more than doubled under President Xi Jinping's 11 years in office. (Reuters)Premium
China has been increasing its military budget. It has been more than doubled under President Xi Jinping's 11 years in office. (Reuters)

China is getting ready to boost its defence spending by 7.2 per cent in 2024, as Beijing hardens its stance on Taiwan, according to an official report released on Tuesday. China has also officially adopted tougher language against Taiwan as it released the budget figures, dropping the mention of "peaceful reunification". 

The mention was dropped in the government report delivered by Premier Li Qiang at the opening of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's rubber-stamp parliament.

In the government work report, China reiterated a call for "reunification" with Taiwan, but added emphasis that it wants to "be firm" in doing so and dropped the descriptor "peaceful", which had been used in previous reports.

Although it is not the first time that China had omitted the word "peaceful", the change in language is closely watched as a possible sign of a more assertive stance towards Taiwan.

China has been increasing its military budget, and it has been more than doubled under President Xi Jinping's 11 years in office, Reuters reported. The hike in the budget mirrors the rate presented last year and again comes in well above the Chinese government's economic growth forecast for the year.

In recent years, tensions over Taiwan have risen sharply as regional military deployments rise. China has claimed the democratically ruled island as its own. 

Despite China's struggling economy, Taiwan is a major consideration in Beijing's defence spending, Li Mingjiang, a defence scholar at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore, told Reuters.  

"China is showing that in the coming decade, it wants to grow its military to the point where it is prepared to win a war if it has no choice but to fight one," Li added.

According to a Reuters report, for over a decade now, since Xi became president and commander-in-chief of China, its defence budget has ballooned to 1.67 trillion yuan ($230 billion) in 2024 from 720 billion yuan in 2013.

The percentage increase in China's military spending has consistently outpaced its annual domestic economic growth target during Xi's time in office. This year, the growth target for 2024 is about 5 per cent, similar to last year's goal, according to China government's report.

Based on data from the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), China's budget this year marks the 30th consecutive year of increasing defence spendings.

The purchase of new equipment is likely to take up the largest single chunk of the budget as the military works to meet Xi's goal of full modernisation by 2035, the IISS said in a research report published last month.

That push continues across several fronts, with China producing weapons ranging from warships and submarines to drones and advanced missiles that can be equipped with both nuclear and conventional warheads.

In July 2023, China's top military body, the Central Military Commission, ordered a "clean-up" of the procurement process and invited the public to report irregularities.

The commission has not announced the results of its investigation, but at least nine generals, including four directly in charge of procurement, have been stripped of their title as parliamentarians, a necessary procedure before they can be charged in court.

Two former defence ministers, Li Shangfu and Wei Fenghe, have also gone missing without explanation, which in China often means they are under investigation. Li had been in charge of military procurement from 2017 to 2022. 

On Tuesday, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council urged China to accept the fact that the two sides are not subordinate to each other. The Council also urged China to create healthy cross-strait exchanges.

The island's defence minister had said that Taiwan's armed forces would increase the number of missile drills they hold this year.

 

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Published: 05 Mar 2024, 08:41 PM IST
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