China unveiled the locally built Jian-10 last week, saying it narrows the gap with advanced nations.
A sleek, swept-wing fighter-bomber dubbed the "Jian-10," unveiled here last week, is more than just another jet plane. It is China's calling card, announcing Beijing's arrival among the top ranks of military manufacturers.
Powered by Chinese engines and firing Chinese precision-guided missiles, the locally built Jian-10 has "allowed China to become the fourth country in the world" to have developed such a capability, "narrowing the gap with advanced nations," boasted Geng Ruguang, deputy general manager of the plane's manufacturer, Avic-I.
The latest fruit of a military modernization drive that has produced an indigenous Chinese nuclear attack submarine, early warning aircraft, frigates and destroyers, cruise missiles, and computerized command and control systems, the Jian-10 is "a decisive step by China toward becoming an aviation power," the official Xinhua news agency declared.
The plane is also a new symbol of China's role-reversal in the global arms industry. "Most technology analysts have been surprised by the speed with which China has gone from being an arms-buying country to one with real promise of being a producer of front-edge military technology," says Denny Roy, senior researcher at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu.
To some of China's neighbors, though, that promise looks more like a threat. And Pentagon officials, too, have repeatedly urged Beijing to explain more clearly the purpose behind a military buildup that has seen defense spending rise by more than 10 percent a year since 1990, according to official Chinese figures.
Offering rare insights into the Chinese leadership's strategic view of the world, the government issued a defense white paper at the end of last year, in a bid to clarify its military policies.