SHANGHAI, China – China will step up improvements in weaponry and technology used by its 2.3 million-strong People's Liberation Army, state media reported Friday, a day after Beijing angrily rejected a Pentagon report describing China as a potential military threat.
China has consistently vowed to boost the technological capabilities of its army, which is the world's largest but lags decades behind those of the U.S. and other major powers in terms of technology and reach.
Despite double-digit increases in military spending in recent years, Beijing insists its military is focused solely on defense.
A 15-year military technology plan calls for developing high-tech industries for both military and civilian purposes, the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily and other state media reported.
It also aims to further develop manufacturing technology for military industries, a move likely intended to lessen China's dependence on Russia for high-tech weaponry.
The projects include development of large aircraft, pressurized-water nuclear reactors and high-temperature gas-cooled reactor nuclear power stations, along with manned space missions and lunar probe programs, the newspaper said.
The technologies will also have applications for the space industry, aviation, ship and marine engineering, nuclear energy and fuel and information technology, the People's Daily said.
It said top experts would be recruited to conduct related research, and that defense research laboratories would be built, including several focused on application of industrial technologies, with shared use of resources by military and civilian facilities.
The reports did not give further details on timing, funding or locations. They did say that China would focus on protecting intellectual property and commercializing research results.
The plan was approved by President Hu Jintao and issued Thursday by the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense at a meeting in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao, the People's Daily said.
The commission, known by its acronym COSTIND, oversees China's efforts to acquire and develop military technology and is considered a key agency for Chinese intelligence operations.
The plan also reflects Beijing's unease at China's heavy reliance on foreign technology in many areas. A report by the official China News Service on Thursday accused Western countries of attempting to build a technological "firewall" against China of limiting civilian technology transfers to help protect their own industries.
The Pentagon report issued Tuesday accused China of seeking to extend its military reach with more long-range aircraft and weapons that would allow it to compete with the United States and potentially pose a threat to other countries.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Thursday angrily rejected the report, insisting that China's buildup is defensive and accusing Washington of Cold War thinking.
China's main military focus is Taiwan, which China considers a part of its territory. Beijing has threatened to invade the self-ruled island if it declares formal independence or resists overtures to negotiate on uniting with the communist mainland.