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China reduces its military, aims for high-tech force

But spending on rise; shift in emphasis seen

SHANGHAI -- China has cut the size of its military, the world's biggest, by 200,000 soldiers in an effort to create a stronger, more high-tech fighting force, the military said yesterday.

China has spent heavily in recent years on advanced weaponry in an effort to extend its military reach and back up threats to attack Taiwan, the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own territory.

The latest campaign left the People's Liberation Army with 2.3 million troops at the end of 2005, stripping out military farms and other noncombat units and removing layers of bureaucracy, the Liberation Army Daily said.

The military has shifted emphasis in recent years from its giant infantry to air and sea forces.

''Our army is headed toward the goal of having an appropriate size, rational structure, efficient units, nimble command, and powerful fighting ability," the Liberation Army Daily said.

The military has shrunk by about 2 million troops since three rounds of demobilization began in 1985, the paper said. It said the latest cuts took place over three years.

The latest cuts eliminated 170,000 non-combat personnel, shifting some jobs to civilians, the Liberation Army Daily said.

Some military academies were closed, lines of command simplified, and units within the navy, air force, and strategic missile force either eliminated or merged, the newspaper said.

China's rapid growth in military spending has alarmed its neighbors and the United States.

China announced its fourth double-digit spending increase in five years in 2005, raising military outlays by 12.6 percent to $29.9 billion.

But foreign analysts say the true total is probably much higher.

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