China's Xi meets military in first event since new leaders unveiled

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping met senior military leaders on Thursday and pressed them on his goal of having world class armed forces by the middle of the century, his first publicly announced meeting with them since a new leadership was unveiled.

Xi, who is also head of the military and the ruling Communist Party, has made military modernisation a key policy platform, with advanced new equipment like stealth jets and aircraft carriers either already in service or development.

The armed forces have also been a focus of Xi’s fight against deep-seated corruption, with dozens of senior officials investigated and jailed.

In his first publicly reported meeting with top officers since Wednesday’s unveiling of his new Standing Committee, a seven-man body that is the height of power in China, Xi pushed home his modernisation message.

The military must ensure it is a world-class service by 2050, Xi said, in comments carried by state media, a goal he set last week at the opening of a key party congress.

The armed forces must “fully recognize the bright prospects for a strong military”, Xi told them. “Put into practice one hundred percent military construction.”

Though China has not fought a war in decades, it has been taking an increasingly assertive stance in the disputed East and South China Seas, as well as over self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as its own, rattling nerves around the region.

China says that it has only peaceful intentions, but that it needs a modern military to protect its interests and citizens around the world and that it will never compromise on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie