President Jiang Zemin has called for more elite officers to study abroad in a bid to catch up with leading global military powers, Xinhua reported. Speaking at a conference in Beijing for officers who have studied overseas, Mr Jiang said on Friday that such a move was a vital step in the PLA's modernisation programme. 'The experience of studying abroad is beneficial for broadening horizons and growth of knowledge among leader-ranking cadres,' said Mr Jiang. The meeting at the Zhongnanhai compound was attended by Mr Jiang and senior PLA officials, including all the members of the powerful Central Military Commission. Analysts said Mr Jiang's remarks signalled the revival of military exchanges between China and the US after a suspension of almost 18 months. 'I believe that Mr Jiang's remarks indicate that [Sino-US] military exchange could become more and more intimate,' said Lee Kwok-keung, a Hong Kong-based military expert who is also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. 'There is a good chance that PLA top brass including the deputy chief of staff, Guo Boxiong, will visit the US by the end of this year,' he said. Sino-US military exchanges were suspended following the US-led Nato bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in May 1999. Ma Ding-shing, a Hong Kong-based PLA expert and columnist, said the exchange programme would help Mr Jiang press ahead with his military reform plans. 'The exchange programme will also help China understand more about the state-of-the-art technology the leading powers have,' he said. Since 1996, China has sent an unspecified number of officers to more than 20 countries, Xinhua reported.