China's army is no longer a "peasant army" and it has very recently eclipsed the United States in a crucial area, a defence expert has warned.
In an interview with news.com.au on the site's I've Got News For You podcast, Dr Alexey Muraviev, an associate professor of National Security and Strategic Studies at Curtin University, spoke about the superpower's ever-growing list of capabilities, its weaknesses and how Australia's military might looks in comparison.
He said China's army is in the process of a transformation that will make it "modern and potent military force".
According to Muraviev, China now has a standing army of around two million which makes "probably the largest military in the world".
However, it's in its naval capacity that China is making up the most ground now – with the superpower hitting a major new milestone in recent months.
Muraviev said the People's Liberation Army Navy has now exceeded the numerical strength of the United States Navy, thus making it technically the largest naval force in the world by ship count.
He said this is because the Chinese Communist Party has given the development of national naval power number one priority – for a worrying reason.
"From the Chinese perspective, securing the maritime domain represented a lifeline for China's economy as well as an opportunity for its expansion plans.
"This is also where they expect a serious military strategic contest to occur. Either it's going to be with regards to resolving the Taiwan matter, which is the number one strategic priority for China, and that can be either resolved through peaceful means, or by means of an amphibious operation, effectively an invasion of an island, or by engaging in an open military confrontation with the United States and their core Pacific allies, such as Japan, possibly Australia and the Republic of Korea."
He added that the People's Liberation Army is no longer the "peasant army" it was once known as and that it's getting "increasingly and incredibly hi-tech".
However, he said there was one glaring weakness and vulnerability of China's modern military power.
That is the fact that it lacks real life combat experience.
"The last time China fought was back in 1979, against communist Vietnam and that's when China lost the war and lost it pretty miserably. And since then, China never had a major competent engagement and all of its experience and attempts to learn how to fight modern war against the advanced adversary is being pretty much simulated and theoretical," he said.
"So while we may be seeing a lot of shining armour presented at parades and we may be seeing thousands of Chinese troops marching in an incredible synchronised manner, we are yet to understand and fully appreciate the extent of China's ability to use its military power in real combat environments.
"So I think China recognises that as well. And I think this is something, we also have to be mindful when we're making final judgments about what China can or cannot do when it comes to using its national military power."
Also in the podcast, Muraviev talks to news.com.au about the chances of Australia and China having some sort of military conflict, what would spark it and what the outcome would likely be based on the power of both armies.