China is expected to reveal a robust increase in defense spending at the March 5 annual opening of its parliament, as its economy rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic and military tensions rise, Chinese and Western security experts said.

With the coronavirus hammering its economy, China last year announced a 6.6% boost in defense spending to $178 billion, the lowest rate of increase in three decades.

The new administration of President Joe Biden has moved quickly to remind Beijing that the United States intends to compete with China's growing influence and military strength in the Asia-Pacific. In recent weeks, powerful U.S. warship fleets have sailed near Chinese-claimed Taiwan and through disputed territory in the South China Sea, to Beijing's anger.