Chinese President Xi Jinping has emphasized the "urgent" need to build a robust navy as he oversaw the country's largest naval fleet review since 1949, while the government announced live-fire military drills would take place in the Taiwan Strait next week.

Xi headed the fleet review in the South China Sea on Thursday morning, saying the need to build a strong navy "has never been more urgent than today," according to a Defense Ministry statement. He also urged the navy to stay on high alert, safeguard national interests and strengthen the leadership of the Communist Party.

More than 10,000 service personnel, 48 vessels and 76 aircraft took part in the review, including the Liaoning aircraft carrier, high-tech submarines and warships as well as advanced fighter jets. More than half of the vessels were commissioned after the Communist Party's National Congress in 2012, when Xi became the party's general secretary.