In December, the United States Congress approved a budget of $768 billion for the American military. But salaries and equipment manufacturing costs are far higher in the United States, which has prompted some analysts to suggest that China’s military budget is rapidly catching up in actual purchasing power.
The plan Mr. Li outlined suggests that China values economic growth more than trying to make potentially painful adjustments to shift the economy toward greater reliance on domestic consumer spending. Beijing has been trying, with limited success, to move the economy away from dependence on debt-fueled infrastructure and housing construction.
China had managed to reduce slightly last year its debt relative to economic output. It needed to do so because this ratio had climbed, during the first year of the pandemic, to a level that economists regarded as unsustainable.
But meeting this year’s growth target would require more borrowing, undoing most or all of the progress made last year in reducing the debt burden, said Michael Pettis, an economist with Peking University. He said that it was hard to see how China could break its dependence on achieving high growth targets at least partly through heavy borrowing.
Mr. Li acknowledged that the Chinese economy would face challenges this year, pointing to the sluggish recovery of consumption and investment, flagging growth in exports and a shortage of resources and raw materials. By the last three months of last year, the economy was growing only 4 percent.
Part of that economic slowdown reflected a series of government policy shifts aimed at reining in unsustainable expansion in some sectors. Housing speculation was discouraged. Stringent limits were imposed on the after-school tutoring industry. And national security agencies imposed tighter scrutiny on the tech sector.