Xi's China shows off force in South China Sea

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping

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(CNN) - Chinese President Xi Jinping oversaw the largest naval parade in his country's history Thursday, as China concluded two days of military drills in the hotly contested South China Sea, a massive show of strength amid growing tensions with the United States.

At least 10,000 personnel took part in drills, which involved 48 naval vessels and 76 fighter jets, said the country's Defense Ministry.

Xi, dressed in camouflage military fatigues and speaking aboard the Chinese destroyer Changsha, called for further modernization efforts, and underlined his goal of transforming the country's navy into a "world-class force" under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

China's only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, took part in the parade with a display of J-15 fighter jets under Xi's observation.

Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has overseen considerable growth in Chinese naval power. Whereas previously the country's navy was largely defensive and confined to its immediate coastal waters, today it boasts significant "blue-water" capabilities, meaning it can project force into areas such as the Indian and Pacific oceans.

But it's the South China Sea that represents the biggest potential challenge. The Chinese government claims a huge swath of territory across the sea, overlapping with claims of the Philippines and Vietnam, among others.

The massive PLA navy drills in the South China Sea sent a clear signal to the other claimants in the region, as ....

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