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China's neighbours watching closely

The unveiling of the J-20 stealth fighter has already set its neighbours, particularly Taiwan, on edge.

Aviation experts believe, comparing the photographs of the J-20 to the vehicles on the ground around it, that the jet is much larger than similar American or Russian fighters and has been designed to fly long distances.

That will worry many of the 14 countries which share land borders with China who do not have the technology to produce their own stealth fighters or even to detect China's plane.

Although China has repeatedly reaffirmed that it is a peaceful nation with no interests in stirring up regional unrest, its behaviour over the past year has become increasingly strident, culminating in a furious spat with Japan when some Chinese fishermen were arrested for ramming a Japanese ship near a disputed island chain in the East Sea last September.

Meanwhile, after the US agreed to sell Patriot missiles to Taiwan last year, China publicly tested a missile intercept system in a show of its own strength. The US also had to intervene to support south east Asian countries after China claimed the entire South China Sea as its sovereign territory, laying down its rights to gas fields, shipping channels and strategic islands that are also claimed by Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.