But the secrecy of the country's political system makes its Asian neighbours and the US wary about its military intentions.

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China's defence ministry goes online

The 2.3 million-strong People's Liberation Army is the world's largest, and reported budget spending has grown by double digits in recent years.

China's rivals worry that its actual defence expenditure is more than the $70bn reported for this year, which is dwarfed by the Pentagon's budget of more than $500bn.

The website comes at a time when China has been ramping up investment in its military to introduce new high-tech weapons.

"The aim of the defence ministry's website is to let the outside world know about China's defence policies ... and show off the good image of the military's powerful, cultured and peaceful forces," said a welcome message on the site.

Heavy on text

The ministry's homepage is heavy on text, and many of the pictures show soldiers holding children, helping in disaster relief or attending political meetings.

A small picture of Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, wearing a tailored olive green version of the uniform jacket of the late Mao Zedong famously known as a "Mao suit", sits near the top of the homepage.

It is split into sections with links for "Military Building", "Military Education" and "Defence Technology", among others, as well as news.

The English version has slightly more strident moving pictures - including one of rather fierce-looking soldiers manning what appears to be an anti-aircraft gun - but also a link telling people about China's peacekeeping operations.

"Netizens to visit the website will be impressed by its succinct and graceful webpage featuring novel and attractive design with distinctive military characteristics," the welcome message to the English site said.

Al Jazeera does not take responsibility for the content of external websites