Prime Minister Li Keqiang told the opening of the National People's Congress that Beijing will not set an economic growth target due to the "great uncertainty" caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said the four percent rise, compared to a year earlier, was fuelled by competition between major powers, new military technologies and rumbling warfare from Ukraine to Libya.
With growing worry over the spread of militancy and failing states on their borders, NATO members last year saw the first annual growth in defence spending relative to the size of their economies since 2009.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the military bloc will prioritise more defence spending as some members are still struggling to meet the target.
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