World Bulletin/News Desk
China unveiled another double-digit rise in military expenditure on Tuesday, but for a third year in a row the defence budget will be exceeded by spending on domestic security, highlighting Beijing's concern about internal threats.
Spending on the People's Liberation Army (PLA) will rise 10.7 percent to 740.6 billion yuan ($119 billion), while the domestic security budget will go up at a slightly slower pace, by 8.7 percent, to 769.1 billion yuan, according to the budget released at the opening of parliament's annual meeting.
The numbers underscore the ruling Communist Party's vigilance not only about territorial disputes with Japan and Southeast Asia and the U.S. "pivot" back to the region, but also about popular unrest over corruption, pollution and abuse of power, despite robust economic growth and rising incomes.
The number of "mass incidents" of unrest recorded by the Chinese government grew from 8,700 in 1993 to about 90,000 in 2010, according to several government-backed studies. Some estimates are higher, and the government has not released official data for recent years.
In his "state of the nation" address to the largely stamp legislature, Premier Wen Jiabao listed maintaining social harmony and stability as one of the government's priorities for this year.
"We should improve the mechanism for assessing potential risks major policy decisions may pose for social stability ... The purpose of this work is to preserve law and order and promote social harmony and stability."
CHINA'S MILITARY AMBITIONS
Still, defence spending is contained at about 5.4 percent of total expenditure, up from 5.3 percent last year, and remains at about one-fifth of the Pentagon's outlays. But even with its worries about domestic problems, China has become increasingly assertive on the world stage.
Wen said the government "should accelerate the modernisation of national defence and the armed forces ... (and) should resolutely uphold China's sovereignty, security and territorial integrity and ensure its peaceful development".
China has advertised its long-term military ambitions with shows of new hardware, including its first test flight of a stealth fighter jet in early 2011 and its launch of a fledgling aircraft carrier - both trials of technologies needing years more of development.
Beijing is also building new submarines, surface ships and anti-ship ballistic missiles as part of its naval modernisation, and has tested emerging technology aimed at destroying missiles in mid-air.