China has no intention to match US military power, a top Chinese general has said.
Speaking in Washington, Gen Chen Bingde said America's armed forces remained far more advanced than China's despite considerable progress by China in recent years.
But Gen Chen warned that further US arms sales to Taiwan could damage US-China military relations.
China regards Taiwan as part of its territory.
It has vowed to use force against the island if it ever formally sought independence.
"China never intends to challenge the US," Gen Chen, chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, said at the National Defense University during his week-long visit to the US.
"Although China's defence and military development has come a long way in recent years, a gaping gap between you and us remains."
But Gen Chen warned that US-Chinese relations would suffer if Washington again sold weapons to Taiwan.
"As to how bad the impact will be, it will depend on the nature of the weapons sold to Taiwan," he said.
Last year, Beijing cut off most military-to-military contacts with the US after Washington announced more than $6bn (£4bn) arms sales to Taipei.
Gen Chen's visit to the US has drawn a strongly favourable press in China - a signal of the importance that the Chinese authorities are now placing on better military ties, the BBC's defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus says.
But there should be no illusions, our correspondent says, as superficial harmony inevitably masks significant underlying tensions.
The aim of China's extensive military modernisation, he adds, is to extend its military reach well beyond its own shores and to potentially neutralise weapons systems where the US has a dominant advantage.
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