BEIJING, March 20 China will improve military
training to reach "combat standard", state media said on
Thursday, as President Xi Jinping steps up efforts to modernise
the armed forces in the face of bubbling territorial disputes.
"The level of Chinese military training will be raised to
actual combat standard to improve the army's capabilities," the
official Xinhua news agency said, citing an order from the
powerful Central Military Commission.
"Strengthening combat readiness should be viewed as a top
priority," it added in a brief dispatch that gave no details.
The order came after Xi was appointed to a new role last
weekend overseeing a group in charge of deepening military
reform, adding to the list of bodies Xi is taking charge of in
his rapid consolidation of power.
Xi said the country's military reform should be guided by
the objective of building a "strong army".
Xi is already head of the military in his role as chairman
of the Central Military Commission.
China is in an increasingly angry dispute with some of its
neighbours, especially Vietnam and the Philippines, over claims
to parts of the potentially oil and gas-rich South China Sea.
China lays claim to almost the whole of the sea, which is
criss-crossed by crucial shipping lanes.
China has a separate dispute with Japan in the East China
China this month announced its biggest rise in military
spending in three years, a strong signal that it is not about to
back away from its growing assertiveness in Asia.
The government said it would increase the defence budget by
12.2 percent this year to 808.23 billion yuan ($131.57 billion),
as China seeks to develop more high-tech weapons and to beef up
coastal and air defences.
The 2014 defence budget is Xi's first since becoming
president last year, and the spending increase appears to
reflect his desire to build what he calls a strong, rejuvenated
Xi also recently urged military leaders to speed efforts to
get the country's sole aircraft carrier combat-ready.
Aside from the carrier, China is developing a range of
high-tech weaponry, from stealth fighters to systems to shoot
China says such moves are purely for defensive purposes and
to update its outmoded forces.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)