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Guard in front of the “Great Hall of the People”: The National People’s Congress is taking place in Beijing this week.

Photo: Wu Hao / EPA

China plans to spend 7.2 percent more on its military this year than last year.

The increase in the defense budget to 1.67 trillion yuan (around 214 billion euros) was revealed in the draft budget presented on Tuesday at the start of the Beijing People's Congress.

Beijing had already increased its military budget by the same amount last year.

The decision to increase the budget is also likely to be related to the tense relationship with Taiwan, which China views as a breakaway province, and disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Experts have not yet expected a war to break out in the strait between China and Taiwan.

However, Beijing wants reunification with the island republic - if necessary with military means.

The People's Republic maintains the largest army in the world in terms of an estimated two million active soldiers.

China's defense budget has grown faster than total spending in recent years.

Growth target of “around five” percent

The increase was also mostly above the economic growth rate.

However, according to experts, the official military budget only reflects a portion of the true expenditure, as many expenses for the People's Liberation Army are also covered by other budgets.

Despite considerable economic difficulties, China has set itself an ambitious growth target of “around five” percent for the current year.

"It will not be easy to achieve this year's goals," Chinese Premier Li Qiang vowed to the 2,872 delegates in the Great Hall of the People.

You have to “work hard” and mobilize joint efforts from all sides.

Li made it clear that the transformation of the economy must continue.

"We should adhere to the principles of pursuing progress while ensuring stability, promoting stability through progress and creating something new before abolishing the old," said Li. The transformation of the growth model must be pushed forward.

Last year, China had already aimed for growth of “around five percent,” which was ultimately slightly exceeded.

According to official data from the Beijing Statistics Office, the second largest economy grew by 5.2 percent.

However, critics fundamentally question the accuracy of Chinese economic data.

Nevertheless, the level of the growth target is considered an important yardstick and indicator of the government's economic policy course.

Recently, the Chinese economy suffered primarily from weak global demand, the struggling real estate market and weak domestic consumption.