BEIJING (Reuters) - China's normally secretive Defense Ministry on Thursday launched a website (www.mod.gov.cn), in a new bid to allay overseas criticism over its military transparency and the build-up of its armed forces.
The site, which also has an English edition (eng.mod.gov.cn/), has been long mooted, and comes at a time when China has been ramping up investment in its military to introduce new high-tech weapons.
"The aim of the Defense Ministry's website is to let the outside world know about China's defense policies ... and show off the good image of the military's powerful, cultured and peaceful forces," says a welcome message.
China's military is the world's largest, and reported budget spending has grown by double digits in recent years.
But the secrecy of the country's political system makes its Asian neighbors and Washington wary about its military intentions.
The home page of the Defense Ministry's website is heavy on text, and many of the pictures concentrate on showing soldiers holding children, helping in disaster relief or attending political meetings.
A small picture of President Hu Jintao, wearing a tailored olive green version of the uniform jacket the late Mao Zedong made famous as a "Mao suit," sits near the top of the home page.
It is split into sections with links for "Military Building," "Military Education" and "Defense Technology," among others, as well as news.
The English version has slightly more strident pictures -- including one of rather fierce looking soldiers manning what appears to be an anti-aircraft gun -- but also a link telling people about China's peacekeeping operations.
"Netizens to visit the website will be impressed by its succinct and graceful webpage featuring novel and attractive design with distinctive military characteristics," says the welcome message to the English site.
China's rivals worry that its actual defense expenditure is more than the $70 billion reported for this year, which is dwarfed by the Pentagon's budget of more than $500 billion.
China insists its military modernization threatens no country.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani