Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged faster development of advanced new military equipment to help build a strong army, state media reported, as the country steps up an ambitious modernisation plan that has rattled nerves across the region.
Speaking at a two-day conference of the People`s Liberation Army, Xi said that military reforms should be "guided by the objective of building a strong army", the official Xinhua news agency said late on Thursday.
"Advanced weaponry is the embodiment of a modern army and a crucial support for national security and rejuvenation," it cited Xi as saying.
"Equipment systems are now in a period of strategic opportunities and at a key point for rapid development."
Xi has been pushing to strengthen the fighting ability of China`s 2.3 million-strong armed forces as they project power across disputed waters in the East and South China Seas.
China has developed emerging stealth fighter technology, anti-satellite missiles and now has one aircraft carrier in operation and is planning more.
Defence spending this year is set to rise by 12.2 percent to 808.2 billion yuan ($131.3 billion), a number many governments and analysts say is not representative of the country`s true defence outlays.
Xi said that new weapons must be "innovative, practical and forward-thinking to meet the demands of actual combat and fill in the weak spots of China`s existing equipment".
"Military officers at all levels should play a leading role and use actual combat to guide soldiers to improve their capacity to operate weapons," he said.
However the country`s armed forces, the world`s largest, came under criticism earlier this year from serving and retired officers and state media, who questioned whether they were too corrupt to win a war.
Part of Xi`s much-vaunted campaign against deep-rooted graft has targeted the military.
In October, the government said one of China`s most senior former military officers had confessed to taking "massive" bribes in exchange for help in promotions.