Fu Ying, the first female spokesperson in the history of the National People’s Congress (NPC), chaired the press conference leading up to this year’s NPC session.
The second question of the day was asked by a People’s Daily reporter: “Smog treatment is among the top concerns of the general public in recent years. What efforts will the NPC make this year to treat environmental protection?”
Fu responded, “This is my fifth press conference. For foreign media, the first would be the defense budget--that is their ‘must ask’ question; for domestic media, their ‘must ask’ question is the environment…It gets asked by the media every year and we address it every year.” She went on to reaffirm that the smog issue is a “long-term challenge China faces.”
True to form, a reporter from CNN asked Fu about China’s annual defense budget for this year and the potential trajectory of the future budget, given concerns in the West over China’s rising military strength, territorial disputes such as the South China Sea, and the American military budget rise recently proposed by the Trump administration.
Fu said that China’s defense budget will grow around 7 percent in 2017, with its GDP share accounting for approximately 1.3 percent--she also pointed out that, in contrast, NATO is currently asking its members to increase contributions to 2 percent of their GDP. Fu added that many in China could hardly understand the concern and suspicion toward the nation considering that, “Over the last decade or more the world has seen many conflicts and even wars, resulting in huge loss of life and poverty, and the displacement of many refugees. None of this is caused by China.”
Regarding the territorial disputes, she stated that China calls for peaceful settlement, dialogue and consultation as well as, needing the ability to safeguard our sovereignty and guarding against “outside meddling in the disputes.” Fu asserted that increased Chinese capability would help maintain peace and stability in the region. She added, “Whether you agree or not, probably--the U.S. is concerned that China may catch up with the U.S. in terms of capability. But China is a developing country, there is a huge gap between China and the U.S. in capability.”
The Fifth Session of the 12th NPC will begin on March 5 and will conclude on the 15th, after which Premier Li Keqiang will hold a press conference, answering questions from Chinese and foreign journalists. Over 3,000 reporters, including more than 1,500 from overseas media, have registered for this event.
At the preliminary press conference on March 4, Fu said, “It is our hope that delegations and deputies will engage the media as much as possible, because this is a window to help the general public in China to know more about state policies and the legal system, and an opportunity for the international audience to better understand China.”
This article is reposted from Beijing Review.