China wants to increase its military spending by 7.2 percent this year. The significant increase in the defense budget to 1.5537 trillion yuan (the equivalent of 211 billion euros) emerges from the draft budget that was presented at the start of the week-long annual session of the People’s Congress in Beijing. The increase in expenditure on the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army is higher than the increase in total expenditure.

In his report to the almost 3,000 delegates in the Great Hall of the People, Prime Minister Li Keqiang called for the expansion of the armed forces, which should “increase their combat readiness and improve their military capabilities”. A conference speaker justified the increase the day before with “complex security challenges” and China’s “responsibility as a great power”.

In view of Beijing’s increasing threats against the democratic island republic of Taiwan, China’s disputed territorial claims in the East and South China Seas and increased rivalry with the USA, the increased expansion of the Chinese armed forces is viewed with concern worldwide.

With Taiwan “linked by blood”

With a view to the neighboring country, Li Keqiang spoke out firmly against Taiwan’s independence. In his statement of accounts he called for “peaceful reunification” with the democratic island republic. “We Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family – connected by blood,” said the premier.

Economic and cultural cooperation with Taiwan and the “peaceful development” of relations should be promoted, Li Keqiang told the nearly 3,000 delegates. In the speech passage, the prime minister was more emotional, but overall somewhat more reserved than in the previous year, when he referred to the blood ties he emphasized, when he had expressly opposed “foreign interference” and “separatist activities” in Taiwan.

Taiwan wants to remain independent

China regards Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic and ultimately threatens conquest if “reunification” cannot be achieved otherwise. However, Taiwan was never part of the communist People’s Republic founded in 1949 and has long considered itself independent.

The island, with 23 million inhabitants, is of geostrategic importance due to its location on economically important straits and was once described by US generals as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier”. Experts assume that in the event of a Chinese attack on Taiwan, the United States could also be drawn into the armed conflict. A war would also have enormous consequences for the global economy. Among other things, the island is a leading center of the semiconductor industry and is the 21st largest economy in the world.