Chinese sailors on board the Luhu-class destroyer Harbin during a naval exercise in 2012. Credit China Daily, via Reuters
BEIJING — China announced on Wednesday that it would increase its military budget for 2014 to almost $132 billion, a 12.2 percent rise over last year. The rapid growth in defense spending is another sign of the country’s goal of becoming a dominant military presence in the Pacific, with a navy able to project power across the region.
The rate of growth in spending is greater than that of recent years. In 2013, China’s defense budget increased by 10.7 percent over the previous year. The country’s military spending is the second largest in the world, behind that of the United States.
The buildup of the People’s Liberation Army, which also includes navy and air force branches, is considered by many analysts to be consistent with the size of China’s economy — the second largest in the world — and its global political influence. Nevertheless, the military expansion is being closely watched by other nations in the region and by the United States, the supreme military power in the Pacific.
American officials have expressed growing concerns over diplomatic tensions in East Asia and Southeast Asia, much of it related to regional anxieties over China’s military rise and its assertion of sovereignty over rocks, reefs, islands, fisheries and sea lanes in the area. The United States has said it does not take sides in the territorial disputes, but it asserts it will maintain freedom of navigation.