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China NPC: Beijing boosts military, hardens line on Taiwan

Published March 5, 2024last updated March 5, 2024

A draft budget foresees increased defense spending while Beijing has adopted tougher language on its Taiwan policy. Nearly 3,000 delegates have gathered for the annual National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing.

Chinese politicians listen to Premier Li Qiang speaking at the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
Premier Li Qiang's delivers the work report at the annual NPC gathering in BeijingImage: Florence Lo/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • Premier Li Qiang's report sets out government's key economic and social development goals 
  • China plans to spend 7.2% more on its military and toughens language on Taiwan
  • China has set a 2024 growth target of around 5%
  • Although largely ceremonial, observers are watching China's National People's Congress (NPC) for possible policy moves 

This updates have now been closed. DW will continue its coverage of the National People's Congress in Beijing on Wednesday morning

Skip next section Philippine, Chinese vessels collide in South China Sea
March 5, 2024

Philippine, Chinese vessels collide in South China Sea

The Philippines has said that Chinese Coast Guard vessels caused two collisions with Philippine boats and fired water cannons at one of them, injuring four crew members during a resupply mission in the South China Sea.

A Philippine government task force said in a statement that "China Coast Guard and Chinese Maritime Militia vessels harassed, blocked, deployed water cannons, and executed dangerous maneuvers in another attempt to illegally impede or obstruct a routine resupply and rotation mission."

Manila summoned a Chinese representative over the incidents, which happened in waters around the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands, where the countries have disputed maritime claims.

The shoal is home to a small number of Filipino troops stationed on a rusting warship which Manila grounded there in 1999 to reinforce sovereignty claims.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Coast Guard laid the blame on Manila, saying it had taken "control measures" against the "illegal intrusion" of Philippine vessels in the waters around the shoal.

The Chinese action was condemned by the United States, the Philippines' defense treaty ally. 

"The US stands with the Philippines and proponents of international law in support of a #FreeAndOpenIndoPacific," US Ambassador to Manila MaryKay Carlson said on X, formerly Twitter.

The incident, which occurred during China's National People's Congress, is indicative of Beijing's growing confidence in throwing around its weight in international affairs, especially in the Pacific region.

Manila warns Beijing over South China Sea dispute

Skip next section US warship sails through the Taiwan Strait
March 5, 2024

US warship sails through the Taiwan Strait

Sailors assistthe landing of a helicopter on the deck of the USS John Finn
The guided missile destroyer USS John Finn was on a routine voyage, the Navy saidImage: U.S. Navy/Zumapress/picture alliance

The US Navy confirmed one of its warships had on Tuesday transited the Taiwan Strait that separates the self-ruled island from mainland China.

The military said that the trip, that came on the day the NPC opened, was a routine one.

"US ships transit between the South China Sea and the East China Sea via the Taiwan Strait and have done so for many years," the 7th Fleet said in a statement.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and regularly protests the presence of foreign military in the area. Beijing called the the voyage by the USS John Finn "public hype."

"Troops in the theatre remain on constant high alert to respond to all threats and provocations at any time," Senior Colonel Shi Yi, a spokesman for China's Eastern Theatre Command, said in a statement.

Skip next section WATCH: China targets GDP growth and toughens language on Taiwan
March 5, 2024

WATCH: China targets GDP growth and toughens language on Taiwan

Fabian Kretschmer, reporting from Beijing, told DW that while a 5% growth target might not sound much given China's past figures, it was an "ambitious" one this year given the "economic headwind" the country is facing.

The big question economists are asking, he says, is "how is China going to achieve that growth?"

China targets GDP growth and toughens language on Taiwan

Skip next section Beijing ramps up military budget — again
March 5, 2024

Beijing ramps up military budget — again

China is set to increase its spending on defense by 7.2% this year, adding to a military budget that has more than doubled during President Xi Jinping's decade-plus in power.

The boost mirrors the rate presented in last year's budget and exceeds projected economic growth of about 5% expected for this year.

Chinese military spending — the second highest in the world by a considerable distance — currently stands at 1.6 trillion yuan ($222 billion).

The figure is closely watched by the US as well as China's neighbors, particularly because of concerns about its strategic intentions regarding Taiwan.

However, Washington's defense budget remains far higher, at some $877 billion in 2022.

Chinese economic slowdown overshadows Lunar New Year

Skip next section Beijing takes more aggressive official stance on unification with Taiwan
March 5, 2024

Beijing takes more aggressive official stance on unification with Taiwan

China has adopted stronger language in its position on Taiwan in a policy document outlining Beijing's intentions for the coming year — dropping a reference to "peaceful" reunification.

In a report, China's Premier Li Qiang outlined a raft of policy aims at the opening of China's National People's Congress that touched upon Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China considers part of its territory.

Tensions have risen sharply in recent years over Taiwan. 

Last year, Li had called for "advanc[ing] the process of China's peaceful reunification." This year, Li said they will "be firm in advancing the cause of China's reunification."

Li Mingjiang, a defense scholar at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore, told the Reuters news agency that Taiwan was a major consideration for Beijing when it comes to defense spending.

"China is showing that in the coming decade it wants to grow its military to the point where it is prepared to win a war if it has no choice but to fight one," Li said.

How can Taiwan defend itself from China?

Skip next section China eyes 5% economic growth in 2024
March 5, 2024

China eyes 5% economic growth in 2024

China has set a 5% gross domestic product growth target for 2024 according to a government work report released on Tuesday.

The target is similar to China's goal last year, one of its lowest in decades.

China's Premier Li Qiang's is set to present his first work report to parliament in Beijing. The report sets out the government's key economic and social development goals each year.

China also set the inflation target at 3% and kept the unemployment rate at around 5.5%.

China's economy expanded 5.2% in 2023, but it is dependent on credit-driven, state-led investment. The country is also facing a property crisis, deflation, and a stock market rout.

Analysts say this year's target will be harder to reach than last year's because the favorable base effect from 2022, during which the country was affected by COVID has reduced.

Skip next section Li Qiang's speech watched for news on economy and increase in the military budget
March 5, 2024

Li Qiang's speech watched for news on economy and increase in the military budget

The National People's Congress (NPC) will focus on China's economic and security challenges during the week-long gathering.

Many of its major decisions will have been made weeks before, in closed-door meetings of the Communist Party.

However, the topics up for discussion and the tone of the speeches provide valuable insights into the concerns of China's rulers.

Given the problems facing the world's second largest economy, Premier Li Qiang's speech will be closely watched for plans on how to bring it back on track.

Observers will also be looking at the setting of China's military budget in light of tensions with Taiwan

Other topics are likely to include the country's opening up to investments and reforms.

Skip next section WATCH: China's annual parliament session starts
March 5, 2024

WATCH: China's annual parliament session starts

DW's Clifford Coonan looks at what is expected from the National People's Congress. The closely watched event lays out the government's policy blueprint for the year ahead.

China's annual parliament session starts this week

Skip next section China's NPC to hear Li Qiang's plan for economic recovery
March 5, 2024

China's NPC to hear Li Qiang's plan for economic recovery

China's economy is spluttering, as nearly 3,000 lawmakers are set to meet in Beijing for the National People's Congress.

Prime Minister Li Qiang is due to present a comprehensive report at the plenary session of the Chinese parliament.

The delegates will be waiting to hear the prime minister's plan to correct the course of the Chinese economy.

Analysts expect him to announce that growth in 2024 will stay largely unchanged, at around five percent.

That would be one of China's lowest in decades -- a far cry from the double digit growth that long drove the country's breakneck development in the nineties and 2000s.