A 300,000 troop reduction announced by President Xi Jinping on Thursday would be basically completed by the end of 2017 and further reforms of the world’s largest armed forces were on the way, the Defence Ministry said. Xi made the surprise announcement at the opening of a military parade marking 70 years since the end of the second world war. The cut represents a little more than a tenth of the military’s 2.3 million strong forces. The reduction would make the People’s Liberation Army more modern and better able to achieve the aim of China having a strong military, the ministry said in a question and answer statement carried by the official Xinhua news agency. “The Chinese armed forces will be slimmer but more capable, and their composition will be more scientific,” it said. The cut would not affect China’s ability to protect itself, the ministry said. “Cutting troop numbers is beneficial for concentrating resources, speeding up informatisation and raising quality. We have the confidence and ability to deal with all kinds of security threats and risks,” it said. This is the fourth time since the 1980s that China will be reducing its military numbers, as it speeds up an ambitious modernisation programme which has seen the development of stealth jets and anti-satellite missiles. The focus of the cut announced on Thursday would be on phasing out outdated equipment, simplifying administrative and non-combat roles and “adjusting and improving military structure”, the ministry said, adding it would be basically completed by late 2017. Defence spending would not go down as a result, as China still needed to update old equipment and would need to spend money to support those who would leave the military in the process, it added. Further military reforms would happen in a “step-by-step” manner and were coming “at the appropriate time”, the ministry said, without elaborating. The cuts are likely part of long-mooted reforms to simplify and further professionalise the military, especially command and leadership structures that are still largely run along Soviet lines.