China's defense spending will rise 7.5 percent to $76.3 billion in 2010, according to a draft budget report released this past week.
That's quite a bit slower than the 12.9 percent average growth from 1996 through 2008, a period in which the country's GDP grew by an annual average of 9.6 percent. Chinese defense spending has more than tripled since 2000, when the official budget was $23.7 billion.
Among world militaries, China's $76.3 billion budget trails only the Pentagon, which plans to spend almost $710 billion in 2010.
"China overtook Japan a few years ago, and more recently, France, Britain and Russia," said Richard Bitzinger, a former CIA analyst at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.