China on Thursday announced a 10.1-percent rise in its national defense budget in 2015, the lowest growth in five years as the country confronts mounting pressure in the face of an economic slowdown.
According to a budget report released shortly before the country's top legislature starts its annual session, the government plans to raise defense budget to 886.9 billion yuan (about 144.2 billion U.S. dollars).
That would make China the second largest military spender in the world following the U.S., whose defense budget amounted to 600.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2013, according to China's (Xinhua) News Agency.
Nonetheless, the 10.1-percent rise represented the lowest expansion in China since 2010, when the defense budget was set to grow by 7.5 percent.
The figure has thereon been riding on a multi-year run of double-digit increases, expanding 12.2 percent last year.
Thursday's budget report did not explain the rationale behind this year's abated growth, but a government work report to be presented by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang may offer some clues.
According to the report, national defense development would be coordinated with the country's economic growth.
The Chinese economy grew 7.4 percent in 2014, registering the weakest annual expansion in more than two decades. The government set this year's growth target to approximately 7 percent, brewing new concerns that the world's economic powerhouse is losing steam.
But the report played down such concerns, stressing that China is now in a "new normal" state, where a balance ought to be stricken between growth and structural optimization.
It said China will comprehensively strengthen modern logistics, step up national defense research and development of new- and high-technology weapons and equipment, and develop defense-related science and technology industries.
"Building a solid national defense and strong armed forces is fundamental to safeguarding China's sovereignty, security, and developmental interests," the report said.