China takes aim at extravagance in military spending

BEIJING (AFP) - China's military has introduced new rules to combat "extravagance and waste" in spending, state media said on Sunday, as the country's new leaders stress austerity to fight official corruption.

New Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, approved the rules that aim to promote austerity and control expenditure, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Mr Xi, who is set to become president next month, has repeatedly pledged to fight graft amid rising social discontent at government corruption and political scandals that have tarnished the ruling party. The new rules require strict control of spending on non-essential infrastructure, procurement and official receptions, Xinhua said.

The military must "resolutely prevent redundant construction, the craving for things big and foreign, extravagance and waste", it said.

Spending should be directed towards the military's core mission, including being able to fight and win a battle, Xinhua said, repeating a slogan described by state media as a key goal for this year.

China is due to announce its annual military budget in early March at a meeting of the National People's Congress, the country's legislature. Last year, it projected the military budget would rise 11.2 per cent year-on-year to US$106 billion (S$131.17 billion), an increase that has caused unease among Asian neighbours, including Japan, which is locked in a territorial dispute with China.

In December, the military banned high-ranking officers from being treated to receptions featuring expensive liquor and luxury banquets, in line with similar rules for party officials. Those rules also called on military officers to prevent family members and associates from accepting bribes.

A corruption watchdog, Transparency International, said last month that China's military is battling a major corruption problem, with little political oversight and no whistleblower mechanism to counter graft.

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