The mainland's return to double-digit growth in official military spending is intended as a warning to the US and Taiwan, a defence analyst said yesterday. James Mulvenon, an expert on the People's Liberation Army, said the annual release of China's defence budget during the NPC was part public relations, part financial accounting. 'This year's apparent above 10 per cent increase suggests that the PLA wants the pace and seriousness of its modernisation to be known to everyone, especially the United States and Taiwan,' said Mr Mulvenon of the US-based Rand Corporation think-tank. According to leaked budget information, Finance Minister Jin Renqing will announce an 11.6 per cent rise in defence spending this year. It signals an about-turn from last year's drop to a single-digit increase in official military expenditures. The central government said it spent 185.3 billion yuan on defence last year, an increase of only 9.6 per cent - the lowest rise in 14 years. In a speech to the NPC yesterday, Premier Wen Jiabao said China would continue to strengthen its military. He said the PLA would pursue quality over quantity. 'As part of our strategy of using science and technology to build strong armed forces, we will focus on developing high-technology weaponry and equipment, foster a new type of highly competent military personnel and promote modernisation of our armed forces,' he said. Mr Wen sought to dispel concerns over China's increasingly capable military, while taking a swipe at the growing unilateralism of the US. 'We will oppose hegemonism, power politics and terrorism in all manifestations and continue to work for a new international political and economic order that is fair and equitable.' Mr Mulvenon, who recently completed an analysis of Chinese military expenditures, believed the small increase announced for defence spending last year was intended to portray China as a peaceful and non-threatening nation. 'The Chinese had realised the deleterious effect of having double-digit growth year after year on its charm offensive,' he said. However, the circumstances have changed since then, Mr Mulvenon said. With Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's perceived push towards independence and closer US military ties with the island, Beijing decided it was more important to send a warning this year that the PLA was no 'paper tiger'. Therefore it is pushing the budget increase above the 10 per cent threshold. Mr Mulvenon said China's military spending had dropped as a percentage of the central government's total expenditure in recent years - even with the inclusion of such off-budget items as foreign weapons purchases and defence industries subsidies. While some western analysts believe the real PLA budget may be four times higher than the reported figure, Mr Mulvenon said the discrepancy was likely to be only 11/2 times greater than the official value.