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Chinese President Xi Jinping watches during a gift handover ceremony at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

(reuters_tickers)

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping will head a new commission overseeing joint military and civilian development, state media said, as the country continues with an ambitious military modernisation programme.

Xi has set great store on China's military modernisation, including developing an ocean-going "blue water" navy, stealth jets and other advanced technologies to better defend the country's growing global interests.

The announcement of the new commission was made late on Sunday in a short statement released by the official Xinhua news agency following a meeting of the party's Politburo, one of its elite ruling bodies.

"The commission will be the central agency tasked with decision-making, deliberation and coordination of major issues regarding integrated military and civilian development," it said, without elaborating.

Xi already oversees the People's Liberation Army in his role as head of the powerful Central Military Commission, and in April was appointed commander-in-chief of a new joint command headquarters for China's military.

China has previously said it needs to place greater focus on developing a military-industrial complex, much like the United States has done, to ensure a powerful armed forces commensurate with its place in the world.

In 2015, Xu Qiliang, a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, said China needs security to be able to develop its economy.

Xu said China needed to place greater focus on developing a military-industrial complex, much like the United States has done, to ensure a powerful armed forces commensurate with its place in the world.

China's military plans have shaken nerves around the region and rung alarm bells in Washington too, though Beijing insists it has no hostile intent and has a genuine need to upgrade outmoded forces to ensure the security of what is now the world's second-largest economy.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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