It has test-flown its first two stealth fighters, and launched its first aircraft carrier, which it bought from Ukraine and refurbished. This month, it unveiled a new attack helicopter.
China has also been raising its profile in the South and East China Seas this year, reasserting its sovereignty over islands or waters also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan and others.
China ushered in a new generation of leaders this month at the 18th Communist Party Congress in Beijing, with outgoing President Hu Jintao making a pointed reference to strengthening China’s naval forces, protecting maritime interests and the need to “win local war”.
Both Vietnam and the Philippines have previously complained about Chinese activity and even harassment in contested parts of the South China Sea.
China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all claim territory in the sea, which covers important shipping routes and is thought to hold untapped oil and gas reserves.
China’s claim is by far the largest, forming a vast U-shape over most of the sea’s 648,000 square miles (1.7 million square km), including the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos.
Sino-Japanese relations are also under strain after the Japanese government bought disputed islands, triggering violent protests and calls for boycotts of Japanese products across China.