China's 2021 defense spending will rise 6.8% from 2020, up slightly from last year's increase and broadly tracking the government's modest growth forecast, as the world's second-largest economy emerges from the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.

Premier Li Keqiang pledged that efforts to strengthen the People's Liberation Army, which is developing an array of weapons from stealthy fighters to aircraft carriers, would continue apace in the face of what China views as multiple security threats.

The spending figure, set at 1.35 trillion yuan ($208.47 billion) in the national budget released on Friday, is closely watched as a barometer of how aggressively the country will beef up its military.