Xi has also embarked on a massive internal reorganization of PLA, streamlined the organization, and firmly controls it.
According to the experts, the slight decline probably avoided the domestic perception that the country's military expenditures far outstripped the general economic growth, which in 2019 is not expected to exceed 6.5%.
But Beijing is quickly acquiring its American rival, with displacement of naval ships and technological advancement, according to Andrew Erickson, Strategic Professor at the Naval War College College, China.
"No one has led this level of Chinese military development in Chinese history before Xi Jinping," he said.
"Armed forces to be reckoned with"
Direct comparison between all aspects of the military budgets of the two countries is impossible, Erickson said, because the different governments are calculating the spending in different ways.
But according to the US expert, China's military budget was the second largest in the world.
"It is obvious that these armed forces are counting. In many areas, they have weapons systems that only a few other countries have," he said.
"If you look at where the Chinese army was a few years ago, under Xi development is really huge. Very impressive."
"The Chinese Navy will get warships so fast that Chinese sources resemble the soup soups of dumplings," said Erickson.
The Chinese Air Force also made regular new and improved aircraft and weapons, including the two-engine J-20 stealth fighter.
In an attempt to professionalize the armed services, several former generals were disciplined or imprisoned for corruption.
Aircraft carriers and corvettes
While the military strength of the United States and China is often compared, the two governments apparently built up their armed forces to serve different purposes.
Washington says that its goal is to reach its army worldwide to protect its allies and American interests internationally.
Beijing claims its interests are closer to home.
Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the National People's Congress, told reporters Monday afternoon: "China's limited defense spending to protect national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity does not threaten any other country.
"Whether or not a country poses a military threat to others is not determined by the increase in defense spending, but by the foreign and national defense policies it adopts."
The main scenarios that China is interested in military are the so-called "home games, not the game," said Erickson.
The Chinese government has built a navy and armed forces to protect and influence the country in the surrounding region, especially in the East and South China seas.
The evidence is in the military hardware that the two countries focused on.
While the United States has 12 aircraft with nuclear power plants, China hardly has a conventional conventional carrier and the other has wings. Type 001A, the country's first home air carrier, was launched in 2018, but has not yet joined the fleet.
This is supported by Chinese frigate production, another small warship, and the sharpening and expansion of the country's coast guard.
"They build strength capabilities that provide greater opportunities for planning the presence and power of the Pacific and Indian Ocean," said Malcolm Davis, senior analyst at the Australian Institute for Strategic Politics.
China has undoubtedly made rapid progress. However, some experts question their ability to fight as a consistent force or experience of their teams.
Such a rocket could theoretically be based outside the US naval strike forces, distributing Washington's largest assets and aircraft carriers.
But Schuster says a military army has never managed to develop an anti-ballistic missile, and China has not shown that it can actually hit a moving target in the ocean.
The Chinese army is also dissatisfied with the treatment of veterans. The decision made in 2015 to release 300,000 soldiers over three years to rationalize the armed forces has resulted in repeated mass protests in many cities after the government has not paid its full pension.
But Davis told the military outlook The United States is increasingly concerned about the increased maintenance costs and the aging fleet, which may give Beijing the opportunity to catch up.
"It is not clear that the traditional advantage of military technology in the United States remains unchanged," he said.
"Balancing the right to sustainability and modernization is a real challenge for the United States as forces are getting older and older, while Chinese steam moves ahead."
CNN Serenitie Wang and Brad Lendon contributed to the article.