Presenting the 1.55 trillion yuan budget plan, Premier Li said China's armed forces should "intensify military education and training in all fields, devote more energy to combat training and military Reinforce work in all directions and areas".
With the 7.2 percent that has now been announced, Beijing's defense spending will increase slightly more this year than in 2022, when the increase was 7.1 percent. Last year, Beijing's defense spending was the equivalent of around 200 billion euros, second only to the USA in the world - whose spending, however, is significantly higher at a planned equivalent of 751 billion euros. However, foreign experts believe that China is actually spending far more on its military than officially announced.
Referring to Taiwan, Li said Beijing should "promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and advance the process of China's peaceful reunification." China sees Taiwan, which has been seceded since 1949, as a breakaway territory.
Relations between China and the USA had recently deteriorated significantly, also due to the Taiwan issue. After a visit to Taiwan by then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China held massive military maneuvers in the seas around Taiwan.
The targeted economic growth of "around five percent" announced at the beginning of the People's Congress corresponds to one of the lowest values in recent decades. A report presented by Premier Li said China will create "about 12 million new urban jobs" this year, bringing the unemployment rate there down to about 5.5 percent.
The growth target issued by the government is still below the value of 5.3 percent that economists surveyed by the AFP news agency had forecast in the run-up to the congress.
Last year, China reported economic growth of just three percent - and thus clearly missed the target of 5.5 percent published at the People's Congress in 2022. Months of strict corona measures and a real estate crisis had weighed on the Chinese economy.
At the National People's Congress, which has now begun and is expected to last ten days, the almost 3,000 deputies should, as usual, unanimously approve the decisions of the ruling Chinese Communist Party. It is therefore considered certain that President Xi Jinping will be confirmed as head of state for a third term. This further cemented his position as the most powerful president since the founder of the state, Mao Zedong.