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Moderate increase in China’s defence budget likely in Covid-hit year, say experts

China is likely to increase its soon-to-be announced 2020 defence budget moderately in the backdrop of an epidemic-hit economy but also to have adequate resources to face challenges at home and abroad, military experts said Wednesday.

The Chinese finance ministry is expected to announce the outlay for the sector on the first day of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s legislature, which begins for a delayed and short session on Friday.

In March, 2019, Beijing announced a yearly budget of 1.19 trillion yuan ($177.5 billion), marking a 7.5 percent increase from the 2018 budget of 1.11 trillion yuan ($167.4 billion).

China, the world’s second-largest economy, sank by a historic 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to a year earlier following a battering by the Covid-19 outbreak in the first quarter.

“My personal opinion is that China’s military spending should increase moderately. The gap between China’s actual needs and the actual figures for military spending is huge, and the problems China faces are numerous and the dangers are growing,” Song Zhongping, Hong Kong-based military expert said.

Among the external factors, Song highlighted China’s rising tension with the US, Taiwan’s, which China says is a breakaway region, “provocative statements”, Sino-India tension at the border and the volatile situation in the dispute ridden South China Sea.

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