China announced Tuesday that military spending will grow at a slower pace than last year, but one analyst cautioned that it should not be interpreted to mean that military tensions with the United States will ease.
At its annual parliamentary meeting, the National People's Congress, Beijing set its 2019 defense spending at 7.5 percent higher than a year ago — or 1.19 trillion yuan ($177.61 billion).
That's lower than the 8.1 percent growth in 2018 and far below double-digit increases of previous years — though analysts have long questioned how accurately the budget reflects actual spending.
Military tensions between the U.S. and China have been on the rise in recent years as Beijing takes a more assertive stance on territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea, as well as over Taiwan — a self-ruled territory which Beijing claims as its own.
But slower growth in defense spending doesn't mean tensions with Washington have ceased, warned Timothy Heath, senior international defense researcher at U.S. think tank Rand Corporation.
In fact, the stated amount is less important than what it's used for, Heath told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday.