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China has announced the increasing of its military spending by about 7% in 2017 just days after President Donald Trump outlined a boost to the US defense budget.

The announcement was made ahead of the annual National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing.

China has been modernizing its armed forces recently as its economy expands.

Its announced defense budget remains smaller than that of the United States. But many observers argue the real figure could be much higher.

China’s announcement marks the second consecutive year that the increase in its defense spending has been below 10% following nearly two decades at or above that figure.

It means that total spending will account for about 1.3% of China’s projected GDP in 2017, the same level as in recent years, said government spokeswoman Fu Ying.

The precise figure for China’s military spending will be provided by PM Li Keqiang when he addresses the NPC on March 5.

Earlier this week, President Trump said he was seeking to boost defense spending by 9% in his proposed budget for 2018.

China’s military build-up – and projection of naval power – has caused concerns in the region, where it has taken an increasingly assertive stance in territorial disputes.

Beijing has been building artificial islands on reefs in waters also claimed by other nations in the South China Sea.

Pictures published in 2016 show military defenses on some islands, a think-tank says.

Defending its right to build, China has said in the past that it has no intention of militarizing the islands, but has acknowledged building what it calls necessary military facilities for defensive purposes.

There have been sporadic incidents between American and Chinese ships in the South China Sea. At the end of 2016, a Chinese ship seized a US navy underwater drone off the Philippines, but later agreed to return it.

Chinese ships have also been involved in clashes and stand-offs with ships from Vietnam and the Philippines.

Japan signed off a record defense budget in December 2016 in the face of territorial disputes with China in the East China Sea and North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

In Beijing, Fu Ying said on March 4 that China advocated “dialogue for peaceful resolutions, while at the same time, we need to possess the ability to defend our sovereignty and interests”.

President Donald Trump is seeking to boost defense spending by $54 billion in his proposed budget plan for 2018, which is about a 9% increase.

The blueprint also calls for deep cuts elsewhere, including to foreign assistance and environmental budgets.

However, President Trump’s plan leaves large welfare programs such as Social Security and Medicare untouched, despite Republican calls for reform.

Donald Trump is expected to release his final budget proposal in mid-March.

He said in a meeting with governors at the White House on February 27: “We’re going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable.”

President Trump, who vowed to increase military spending and preserve welfare programs during his campaign, said the budget will focus on “military, safety, economic development”.

Image source Flickr

He said: “It will include an historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it.”

Military spending has declined in recent years due to budgetary battles in Congress that led to a defense sequester.

Donald Trump’s proposal would return the United States closer to wartime spending.

He also said he would discuss his plans for infrastructure spending, in a speech to Congress on February 28.

“We’re going to start spending on infrastructure big,” he said.

Donald Trump did not say how his budget proposal will tackle mandatory spending and taxes, promising those details to come later.

He pledged to cut taxes during his presidential campaign, which would likely add to the national debt.

Military spending has declined in recent years due to budgetary battles in Congress that led to a defense sequester.

The White House sent President Trump’s 2018 budget blueprint, which begins on October 1, to federal agencies on February 27.

The agencies will then review the plan and propose changes to the cuts as the White House prepares for negotiations with Congress.

The Republican-controlled Congress must approve any federal spending.

Donald Trump’s plan is expected to face backlash from Democrats and some Republicans over cuts to domestic programs.