(Update 3: Adds energy and environmental plans in final 5 pars, minor edits)

Beijing, Mar 5 (efe-epa).- China will increase its 2021 defense budget by 6.8 percent, according to the government's preliminary report presented at the National People's Congress (NPC), which began Friday.

The defense spending of the Asian power this year is expected to total 1.35 trillion yuan ($208.5 billion), a figure that will be reviewed during the annual congress, which will run until next Thursday.

The data is higher than last year (6.6 percent), when the coronavirus pandemic forced the Chinese authorities to contain their expenses.

The goal announced at the opening of the plenary session is that, by 2035, the Chinese armed forces will have achieved complete modernization.

According to a Beijing-based military expert quoted by the state Global Times newspaper, "China still uses many outdated weapons and equipment" and "the development of advanced weaponry, like the construction of the new aircraft carrier and mass-production of the J-20 stealth fighter jet, also requires investment.”

Beijing also established a 2021 growth target for "above 6 percent," according to the report. The document said the objective is set taking into account "the recovery of economic activity" – GDP grew by 2.3 percent in 2020 – and also sets an inflation growth target of about 3 percent.

Last year it skipped setting a goal due to the pandemic.

In addition, China is setting the goal of creating more than 11 million urban jobs, it added.

Regarding Hong Kong, Beijing will also continue to implement "in its entirety" the so-called "One Country, Two Systems" principle that governs relations with the semi-autonomous city.

China "will resolutely guard against and deter external forces' interference" in Hong Kong, the Chinese premier said during the congress.

"We will improve the relevant systems and mechanisms of the two special administrative regions for enforcing the [Chinese] constitution and the Basic Law (of Hong Kong); and implement the legal systems and enforcement mechanisms for the two regions to safeguard national security," Li Keqiang said.

On Thursday, China announced that the NPC would discuss a proposal to overhaul Hong Kong's electoral system, which seems to be aimed at reducing the political leverage of the opposition.

Wang Chen, vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, submitted "a draft decision on improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region" to the NPC on Friday for deliberation, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

The NPC is expected to greenlight the proposal before the end of the annual political event, following which the NPC Standing Committee will draw up the legislation that it will impose on the semi-autonomous city.

China also plans to reduce its energy consumption by 3 percent for each unit of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021, and over 2021-2025 the government expects that energy consumption per unit of GDP will be reduced by 13.5 percent, and carbon dioxide emissions by 18 percent.

It also announced an action plan for China's CO2 emissions to peak by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, a goal previously announced by President Xi Jinping.

A "clean, safe and efficient energy system" will be established and non-fossil energy in total energy consumption will increase to around 20 percent, according to the draft of the five-year plan.

The report highlights that China will actively develop nuclear energy with safety as a premise and anticipates that the installed capacity of this energy will reach 70 million kilowatts.

Finally, China is committed to preventing and controlling atmospheric pollution and reducing by 10 percent the concentration of PM2.5 particles – the most harmful to health – in its large cities. EFE-EPA

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