Xi is already head of the military in his role as chairman of the
powerful Central Military Commission.
The official news agency Xinhua said Xi had chaired the first
meeting of the new leading group for deepening reform on national
defense and the military, in the first mention of the group by state
Xi has already taken charge of similar bodies overseeing economic
reform and internet security, besides running the new national
During the military meeting, Xi "stressed the country's military
reform should be guided by the objective of building a strong army",
Xi's speech, full of turgid communist phrases, gave no specifics of
how China will modernize its military.
"National defense and military reform are an important part and an
important symbol of China's overall reform," Xi said.
With "being able to combat and win battles" as the focus, Xi said
reforms should "target key problems in strengthening combat
preparedness and weak links in honing combat effectiveness."
The goal is to build an army that "obeys the Party's command, is
capable of winning battles and has a sound work style", he added.
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, especially in disputed waters.
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The government said it would increase the defense 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
The increase follows a nearly unbroken run of double-digit hikes in
the Chinese defense budget, second only to the United States in
size, for the past two decades.
The 2014 defense 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 China.
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 down satellites.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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