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 economy expanded by 6.7 percent last year, a good start for the country's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), Wang Guoqing, spokesperson for the fifth session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told a press conference. Last year, with the economy flagging, Chinese officials announced the first single-digit rise since 2010.
Beijing's decision to opt for a low increase in military expenditure contrasts sharply with United States president Donald Trump's recent announcement that he will push for a 10 percent increase in defence spending.
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 U.S. defense spending plans.
Fu, a former vice foreign minister, defended China's rise as reasonable for its huge geographical size, noting that the budget only accounts for about 1.3 percent of gross domestic product.
China's economic growth target for 2017 is expected to be lowered to around 6.5% from last year's 6.5%-7% when Premier Li Keqiang gives his work report to parliament.
She added that "strengthening of Chinese capabilities benefits the preservation of peace and security in this region, and not the opposite". Recent reports that China may be adapting artificial islands in the South China Sea for military purposes have caused concern in Washington as well. This is seen as a second attempt by Chinese president Xi Jinping to capture the moral high ground since his recent announcement at the World Economic Forum that China would stick to the path of globalization despite protectionist tendencies in the US.
Ms Fu also fielded a wide-ranging slew of questions from Sino-US relations to China's global role to domestic concerns such as food safety and pollution.
The 2016 figure marked the first time in six years that spending growth did not rise into double figures.
"But in the meantime, we must also have the capability to defend our sovereignty, our rights and interests", she said.
She stopped short of criticizing Mr. Trump's proposal for raising USA military spending, saying only that the Pentagon budget was already huge.
Seeking a more streamlined fighting force, China plans to complete the cutting of 300,000 military personnel by the end of the year, shifting the emphasis away from the land forces and toward the navy, air and rocket units. "There is a huge gap between China and the U.S. in capability". Beijing has never renounced its vow to use force to take control of the island it considers its own territory, and tensions have risen since the election previous year of independence-leaning Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
Fu did not specify the "disputes" or the country which would "meddle" in Chinese affairs, though she was apparently referring to the South China Sea and East China Sea territorial disputes.
An American aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, has been patrolling in the South China Sea for much of the past two weeks.
"As to how the situation develops in the future, that depends on US intentions", Ms. Fu said.