China put on its biggest display of military might on Thursday in a parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War Two, an event shunned by most Western leaders but which underscored Beijing’s growing confidence in its armed forces.President Xi Jinping, speaking on a rostrum overlooking Beijing’s Tiananmen Square before the parade began, offered an unexpected olive branch by saying China would cut its troop levels by 300,000. That would streamline one of the world’s biggest militaries, currently around 2.3-million strong.Xi gave no timeframe for the troop cut, adding China would always “walk down the path of peaceful development”.He then descended to Beijing’s main thoroughfare and inspected rows of troops, riding past them in a black limousine and bellowing repeatedly: “Hello comrades, hard-working comrades!” More than 12,000 soldiers, mostly Chinese but with contingents from Russia and elsewhere, then began marching down Changan Avenue, led by veterans of World War Two carried in vehicles. They will be followed by a range of ballistic missiles, tanks and armoured vehicles, many never seen in public before. Advanced fighter jets and bombers are also due to fly overhead.Among the weapons China will unveil for the first time is an anti-ship ballistic missile, the Dongfeng-21D, which is reportedly capable of destroying an aircraft carrier with one hit. Lined up in a sidestreet were also several intercontinental ballistic missiles such as the DF-5B and the DF-31A as well as the DF-26 intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM), dubbed the “Guam killer” in reference to a U.S. Pacific Ocean base. For Xi, the parade is a welcome distraction from the country’s plunging stock markets, slowing economy and recent blasts at a chemical warehouse that killed at least 160 people.

Xi was joined by Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of several other nations with close ties to China, including Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.Most Western leaders rebuffed invitations to attend, diplomats said, unhappy about the guest list and wary of the message China is sending to a region already rattled by its military assertiveness, especially in the South China Sea.Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is not attending the event, which is being held one day after the 70th anniversary of Tokyo’s surrender in World War Two.The Chinese government has repeatedly said the parade is not aimed at today’s …Read More