China Defends Expanded Military After Memories of ‘Bullying’

China’s push to boost its defense capability has become a key to maintaining peace in Asia and stems from lessons learned after being bullied, a spokeswoman for the country’s legislature told a briefing today.

China seeks to solve disputes through negotiation and diplomacy, National People’s Congress spokeswoman Fu Ying said on the eve of the legislature’s annual session. In a break with precedent dating back at least to 2005, Fu declined to release a defense spending forecast for this year, saying the figure would be included in the overall budget. That information is expected to be disclosed tomorrow when the NPC starts.

Xi Jinping, who became Communist Party general secretary in November, has pledged a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” Neighbors including Japan and the Philippines have voiced concern over China’s maritime territorial claims amid a rise in military spending.

“Historically China has had weak national defense, and was subject to the hurtful lessons of bullying,” Fu told a briefing in Beijing. “Chinese people’s historical memories of this problem are deep, so we need a solid national defense.”

Chinese military spending, second only to that of the U.S., was forecast to rise 11.2 percent in 2012 to 670 billion yuan ($108 billion) as the country modernized its fighter jets, sea frigates and satellite technology.

Budget Release

China will safeguard its security interests and respond “resolutely” if other countries provoke it, Fu said in response to a question about whether the country is becoming more assertive in its dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea.

“Some people might make prejudgments with the conventional logic that a strong country is bound to seek hegemony,” Fu said. “When another country makes provocations, what should we do? We should give a resolute response and handle these matters in timely manner.”

Asked about political reform, Fu said China would not copy the model of other countries.

“You cannot say that if China’s reform is not following the model of other countries then China is not following political reform,” she said. “This is unfair and not correct.”

— With assistance by Michael Forsythe

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