China to boost defense spending by lowest rate in years

BEIJING (AP) — China will boost defense spending by just 6.6% in 2020, the lowest rate in years as it battles an economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.

The figure announced Friday is down from the double-digit percentage increases of just a few years ago that have given China the second largest defense budget in the world behind the U.S.

The People’s Liberation Army, the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, is the world’s largest standing military and in recent years has added aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines and stealth fighters to its arsenal, most of them produced domestically.

China says the increases in spending mostly go toward improving conditions for troops, while foreign critics say actual spending could be much higher because many items are not included in the official budget.

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The spending will pay to expand China’s navy and acquire advanced aircraft and other weapons to help Beijing enforce its territorial claims in the South China Sea and expand its military presence in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.

Defense spending rose by 7.5% last year.

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