China's announcement of its military budget had been highly anticipated, as the country is involved in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, where China claims an area contested by several other countries.
China's real military spending will nearly double between 2010 and 2020, reaching $233 billion a year by the end of the decade, according to a report in December by IHS Jane's, a provider of defense information and analysis.
China is to increase its military spending by around 7 per cent this year, its government has announced - less than the 10 per cent by which Donald Trump has vowed to grow the U.S. military budget.
Gen. Wang Hongguang, a retired deputy commander of the former Nanjing Military Command, called for a 12 percent increase of the Chinese defense budget in view of United States defense spending plans.
Total defense spending would account for about 1.3 percent of projected gross domestic project in 2017, said Fu Ying, spokeswoman for the legislature.
The precise figure for the 2017 defense budget will be provided by Premier Li Keqiang during his speech at the NPC on Sunday morning.
But its military capabilities remain modest compared to the United States, Fu said, adding that concerns about the country's military buildup are unwarranted.
With troop numbers declining, the 7% increase suggested "funding is still being channeled towards investment in new equipment and the wider process of modernizing" the Chinese military, said Craig Caffrey, an expert on defense budgets at IHS Jane's.
China is also facing increasing challenges in its neighbouring regions, including the South China Sea, Taiwan and the Korean peninsula, many of which are related to China's rivalry with the US.
"Probably fundamentally the United States is concerned that China may catch up with the United States in terms of capability, but we are a developing country".
Ms. Fu said recent talks with China's neighbors had eased those tensions, a position Beijing has repeated often in recent weeks as Mr. Trump has suggested he will take a tougher approach toward Beijing on trade and territorial issues.
"At the same time, we need the ability to safeguard our sovereignty, and our rights and interests", Ms. Fu said. Past year saw a 7.6 per cent rise over 2015.
Wang Hongguang, former deputy commander of Nanjing military area command, also expressed concerns about Trump's potential impact on relations with China, and is watching closely whether the reasonably smooth talks between the USA president and State Councillor Yang Jiechi would signal any turnaround. "There's a huge difference between China and the USA in capability".
"As long as progress and stability are maintained, China can one day become a leading world economy in the coming years", CPPCC spokesman Wang Guoqing said at the first press conference of the 5th Session of the CPPCC National Committee held Thursday at the Great Hall of the People.
China has been rapidly modernising its armed forces in recent years as its economy expands. "But in fact there is a still a huge gap in ability between the USA and China, which is still a developing country".
Recent satellite imagery indicates China is completing structures meant to house surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) on a series of such artificial landmasses, the Washington think-tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said last week.
An American aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, has been patrolling in the South China Sea for much of the past two weeks.
"You should ask them what their intentions are", Fu added.