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May 23, 2020

China defence spending rise at three-decade low, still to grow 6.6pc

World

May 23, 2020

BEIJING: China’s defence spending this year will rise at the slowest rate in three decades but will still increase by 6.6% from 2019, as the country grapples with what it sees as growing security threats and a wilting economy, foreign media reported.

The figure, set at 1.268 trillion yuan ($178.16 billion) in the national budget released on Friday, is closely watched as a barometer of how aggressively the country will beef up its military.

China’s economy shrank 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020 compared with a year earlier, as the novel coronavirus spread from the central city of Wuhan, where it emerged late last year.

China omitted a 2020 economic growth target for the first time and pledged government support for the economy in Premier Li Keqiang’s work report on Friday, launching the country’s annual parliament meeting.

Still, Li pledged that the armed forces, the world’s largest, should not be worse off.“We will deepen reforms in national defence and the military, increase our logistic and equipment support capacity, and promote innovative development of defence-related science and technology,” he told about 3,000 legislators in the largely rubber-stamp body.

“We will improve the system of national defence mobilisation and ensure that the unity between the military and the government and between the military and the people remains rock solid,” he added, speaking in the Great Hall of the People.Despite the coronavirus outbreak, the armed forces of China and the United States have remained active in the disputed South China Sea and around Chinese-claimed Taiwan.