China to lift 10 million people out of poverty by 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end of the opening session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing China

Despite the lower deficit target, the absolute amount of the deficit is expected to be unchanged at 2.38 trillion yuan ($375.92 billion), according to the finance ministry's annual budget report.

The nearly 3,000 Communist Party members that occupy the seats of the National People's Congress (NPC), generally considered a rubber stamp that almost never rejects legislation, as we noted previous year.

"Technologically speaking, the PLA has progressed markedly in recent years, with its own research and development in military hardware and growing professionalism reducing the gap with its United States counterpart", he added.

The defense budget follows increases of 7.6 percent in 2016 and 7 percent in 2017, Xinhua said.

Noting that this year's increase was roughly the same as last year's when adjusted for inflation, Shanghai military expert Ni Lexiong said China was seeking to avoid a full-on arms race based on quantity of weapons, choosing instead to invest in high-tech systems and training.

"That lack of transparency is most troubling", he said. "It is extremely alarming for Australia and many other countries in the region".

Improving the people's well-being, an objective of economic growth, was also given special mention.

The Communist Party of China kicked off its annual National Congress that decides the state's agenda with this year's session primarily created to revamp the party constitution to lift limits on presidential terms, enabling President Xi Jinping to hold onto power indefinitely and entrench the single party's hold over the world's second largest economy.

"China's development will not constitute a threat to any country".

Xinhua said China actually spent $161.87 billion in national defense a year ago, or about 1.3 percent of its gross domestic product.

Swift also called on China to clarify its intentions in the South China Sea. China has completed the reduction of its military troops by 300,000 soldiers, State Council Premier Li Keqiang said.

In January, the Department of Defense published a summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which singled out China and Russian Federation as revanchist powers that are the "central challenge to US prosperity and security".

The government will also spread the use of practices developed in existing free trade zones all over the country, and explore opening free trade ports, he said.

The report said that China's economics and financial risks were "on the whole manageable".

China's defense budget is so large now that double-digit annual percentage increases are no longer necessary, said military commentator Song Zhongping.

All three of China's sea forces - the navy, coast guard and maritime militia - are the largest of their types by number of ships, allowing them to "maintain presence and influence in vital seas", according to Andrew S. Erickson of the U.S. Naval War College's China Maritime Studies Institute.

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