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China troops give rare show of military clout

Image: Chinese soldiers show off fighting skills
Chinese People's Liberation Army soldiers show off their fighting skills at a media event on the outskirts of Beijing on Tuesday.Peter Parks / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Chinese troops battled mock terrorists who hijacked a bus and blasted automatic weapons at moving targets in a drill for foreign journalists Tuesday, calling it a sign the world's largest army is opening up to the outside world.

China has long been tightlipped about its military strength and capacity, drawing criticism from other countries wary of the Asian giant's growing power and skyrocketing military spending.

Senior Colonel Leng Jiesong, head of the army's Third Guard Division, told journalists the tour was part of a policy of increased openness.

"China is more and more open to the outside world, and so is the People's Liberation Army, and we are actively speeding up our opening process," he said.

The visit comes ahead of Aug. 1, which marks the 82nd anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army, which now has 2.3 million members.

The tour was organized by the Ministry of Defense and attended by officials from the Foreign Ministry.

Journalists took a tour of soldiers' living quarters, viewed a counterterrorism exercise involving a hijacked bus and seven terrorists who escaped into a nearby building, and watched target practice involving automatic weapons and rocket launchers.

Military spending boosts
The trip comes as China's Defense Ministry gears up to launch its official Web site. State media have said the site will be online in time for the army's anniversary, but the director of the ministry's information office, Hu Changming, would not confirm the date.

China's military spending has jumped by double-digit percentages every year for nearly two decades. This year, Beijing announced a 14.9 percent rise in military spending to 480.68 billion yuan ($70.27 billion).

That spending puts it on par with Japan, Russia and Britain, but it is still dwarfed by the U.S., which spends nearly 10 times as much.

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