China's military has the "confidence and capability" to bolster the country's rise into a world power, President Xi Jinping says.
It came as he oversaw a large-scale military parade meant to show off the forces at his command to foreign and domestic audiences.
Live state television broadcasts showed Xi, dressed in fatigues and speaking from an open-top jeep, telling his troops that China needed a strong military "more than ever" as it moved "closer to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."
Xi, who commands the People's Liberation Army as chairman of the Central Military Commission, has frequently spoken of his "China Dream" to restore China to a leadership position in international affairs with a modern, far-reaching military force to match.
The parade at the Zhurihe military training base in China's Inner Mongolia region was also a sign domestically of how Xi has enhanced his control over the PLA, just as he has over every other political power base within the sprawling Communist Party, ahead of a pivotal party congress this year.
A Communist Party "princeling" fond of deploying revolutionary lore and nationalistic rhetoric, Xi declared the PLA ready to defeat all "invading enemies" as he celebrated the 90th anniversary of the PLA's founding. It was the first time a parade has been held to mark the occasion.
"We need to build a strong people's military more than any other time in history," Xi said as he inspected troops, armoured vehicles, missiles and aircraft, hailing each formation by shouting "Comrades, you've worked hard!"
On display were advanced weaponry including a new Dongfeng-31AG variant of the nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile and the Dongfeng-21D "carrier killer." Several H-6K bombers, the long-range aircraft recently involved in exercises near Japan and the South China Sea, were shown flying by overhead.
Xi has emphasised combat readiness for the PLA - long criticised as a corrupt bureaucracy with scant combat experience - and pushed for an ambitious modernisation program to make it a leaner force capable of projecting power overseas.