China’s armed forces must be smaller but more capable, and if reforms are not properly carried out the military risks falling behind, affecting its ability to wage war, Chinese state media on Saturday cited President Xi Jinping as saying.

Xi unexpectedly announced in September last year that he would cut troop numbers by 300,000, or some 13 percent of the world’s biggest military, currently 2.3-million strong.

The cuts come at a time of heightened economic uncertainty in China as growth slows and the leadership grapples with painful economic reforms. In October, hundreds of previously demobilized soldiers protested in Beijing.

The lay-offs are part of broader reforms to modernize the military, moving away from the old Soviet-era command module and putting more emphasis on high-tech weapons such as stealth jets.