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BEIJING, March 1 (Reuters) - The strengthening of cyber capabilities is an important part of China's military modernisation, the government said on Wednesday, warning that the internet should not become "a new battlefield".
China, home to the largest number of internet users, has long called for greater cooperation among nations in developing and governing the internet, while reiterating the need to respect "cyber sovereignty".
But Beijing, which operates the world's most sophisticated online censorship mechanism known elsewhere as the "Great Firewall", has also signalled that it wants to rectify "imbalances" in the way standards across cyberspace are set.
"The building of national defence cyberspace capabilities is an important part of China's military modernisation," the Foreign Ministry and the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country's internet regulator, said in a strategy for global online cooperation on the ministry's website.
China will help in the military's important role in "safeguarding national cyberspace sovereignty, security and development interests" and "hasten the building of cyberspace capabilities", the strategy said, but also called on countries to "guard against cyberspace becoming a new battlefield".
Countries should not engage in internet activities that harm nations' security, interfere in their internal affairs, and "should not engage in cyber hegemony".
The United States has accused China's government and military of cyber attacks against U.S. government computer systems. Beijing denies those claims and also says it is a victim of hacking.
While China's influence in global technology has grown, its ruling Communist Party led by President Xi Jinping has presided over broader and more vigorous efforts to control and censor the flow of information online.
The "Great Firewall" blocks many social media services, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Google, along with many rights groups sites and some foreign media agencies.
Beijing also adopted a controversial cybersecurity law last year that overseas critics say could shut foreign businesses out of various sectors in China.
Chinese officials say the country's internet is thriving and that controls are needed for security and stability. (Reporting by Michael Martina and Catherine Cadell; Editing by Nick Macfie)