China raises military budget
China is to increase military spending by 8.1pc this year as the world's biggest army expands its global reach and continues to modernise.
Beijing's defence budget is the largest in three years and comes as the Asian giant becomes increasingly assertive under president Xi Jinping.
The Chinese leader is set to clear the way for him to rule for life at the National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament, which meets this week.
The increase of China's defence budget to 1.1 trillion yuan (€140bn) was announced on the opening day of the political gathering yesterday.
It compares with a 7pc increase last year and 7.6pc in 2016, which marked the first time in six years that spending growth had not risen into double figures.
Li Keqiang, the prime minister, told NPC delegates: "We will stick to the Chinese path in strengthening our armed forces, advance all aspects of military training and war preparedness."
China has cut 300,000 troops from its forces, leaving it with an army of around two million soldiers.
But the People's Liberation Army is undergoing a rapid modernisation drive.
It is preparing to launch its second aircraft carrier and has been developing stealth jets and advanced missiles.
China has angered rivals such as Vietnam and the Philippines with what observers see as its growing militarisation of the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.
Washington has also expressed alarm at China's building of artificial islands in the disputed waters.
China last year opened its first overseas naval base in Djibouti, a strategic location at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal.
©Daily Telegraph, London