Chinese President Hu Jintao has promised increased defense spending to build China's military into a modern, high-tech fighting force. As the People's Liberation Army celebrates the 80th anniversary of its founding, China is also seeking to assure its neighbors that the military build-up poses them no threat. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.
President Hu promised the military it would continue to receive budget increases. He made the comments during live broadcasts celebrating the 80th anniversary of China's military, the People's Liberation Army.
Mr. Hu says that along with continued increases in economic strength, China will gradually increase investment in defense.
He says China will develop its military to fight high-tech and information-based battles.
The People's Liberation Army grew out the communist Red Army, which was founded during a rebellion by government troops in 1927. The Red Army grew under the leadership of Communist Party leader Mao Tse-tung, and was renamed the People's Liberation Army in 1946. Today, the PLA is the largest standing army in the world, with more than 2.25 million members.
China surprised the world in January when it destroyed a satellite in orbit with an anti-satellite weapon. Analysts say China was showing that its military is capable of knocking out potential adversaries' high-tech communications facilities in the event of a military conflict.
Military spending has for years grown by double-digits, and according to official figures rose by nearly 18 percent this year. Beijing says higher budgets are necessary to increase soldiers' salaries and update old equipment.
Critics say China's defense spending is actually several times higher than the government has revealed and have expressed concern about the build-up and China's military intentions.
The country is increasing contacts and exchanges with foreign militaries, and gradually opening up to the world, in an attempt to dampen these concerns.
At Army Base 196 outside of Beijing, soldiers fire cannon and machine guns, demonstrating their skills Monday during a rare visit by foreign journalists.
The unit's senior colonel, Zhang Qingjiang, says China should be judged by its actions, and not by theories.
Zhang says that to determine if there is a threat, one should look at words and behavior. It is not reasonable, he says, to say someone is a bully just because he is big.
Analysts say the world's biggest concern is China's military intentions toward Taiwan, the self-ruled democratic island China claims as its own. Beijing and has vowed to reunite the island with the mainland one day, by military force if necessary.
The United States is obliged to defend Taiwan under certain circumstances, which could one day bring it into military conflict with China.