The next two decades will be critical to China's efforts to become a modern military power, a PLA general says. Major-General Wu Yujin, vice-commandant of the People's Liberation Army Science and Engineering University, said the military could leap forward a generation during the next 20 years if it successfully pushed through plans to improve the use of information technology and modern equipment and tactics. He made the comments in an article in the official Outlook Magazine. China has one of the largest militaries in the world in terms of manpower, but has a limited inventory of modern equipment and clings to outdated strategies based on brute force rather than technology. The PLA is seen as lagging far behind western militaries and the gap, particularly with the United States, has continued to widen despite China's modernisation efforts. A recent report by the US-based Council on Foreign Relations said the PLA was at least 20 years behind the US military. General Wu said the PLA should focus on developing specific areas of strength such as information warfare rather than trying to improve its entire structure at once. He said the best way forward was for the nation to develop its own military technology and production facilities and not to blindly worship foreign hardware. In recent years, China has spent billions of dollars buying arms from Russia, with mixed results. General Wu said the level of education among members of the military must increase along with technological advances. He said the military's academy system should be reformed by including more professional and specialist training. The article said only 2 per cent of PLA personnel had advanced university degrees. The vice-dean of the PLA National Defence University, Major-General Ku Guisheng, said in the article the military must improve the leadership abilities of its commanders along with their technological knowledge. With the new use of sophisticated hi-tech military hardware, General Guisheng said commanders faced higher levels of stress. This made it more important than ever the right people were in place, he said. To support its military modernisation drive, China has been gradually reducing its force numbers while increasing defence spending. Since 1997, the PLA has been demobilised 500,000 troops, reducing the current figure to about 2.5 million.