Defence Minister Chi Haotian has called on the Army and nation to rally behind President Jiang Zemin and the Communist Party leadership to demonstrate their patriotism. General Chi made the appeal yesterday while presiding over a Beijing meeting called to promote a series of patriotic events. About 100 mainland media and military units are organising the public displays of national pride, including essay competitions and quizzes on national defence matters. General Chi said patriotism should be the 'main rhythm of China's socialism'. He told cadres and soldiers to use celebrations organised for July 1 and August 1 to drive home the message. The People's Liberation Army will mark its 70th anniversary on August 1 - a month after the Hong Kong handover. 'We should fully utilise these opportunities and mobilise the public to deepen our education on patriotism and national defence,' Xinhua (the New China News Agency) quoted General Chi as saying. He also praised the collective leadership under Mr Jiang, describing the leaders as 'trustworthy, reliable and accomplished inheritors' of the enterprise reforms which the late Deng Xiaoping pioneered. 'They have excellent leadership finesse and unrivalled ability to command complicated situations,' General Chi said. 'They have earned the high-degree of trust and total devotion from the whole [Communist] Party, Army and the nation. 'In order to further perpetuate the spirit of patriotism, we must rally closer behind the Party Central with Jiang Zemin at the core.' General Chi also reminded officers of the importance of technology in modern warfare, saying the PLA must equip itself with the latest technology. 'We must remember the hard-learned lesson that backwardness means defeat and transform our patriotic zeal into aspiration for more advanced technology and knowledge,' he said. Foreign military observers have pointed out that despite the increases in military budgets over the past few years, the PLA is still stressing ideological education and is lagging behind Asian countries like Japan in terms of technology, organisation and funding.