With fighter jets roaring overhead, China’s leader presided Thursday over a massive parade of tanks, missiles and troops that displayed growing military might, but also pledged to reduce the army by 300,000 troops in a bid to show that his country poses no expansionist threat.
The spectacle through the heart of Beijing commemorated Japan’s World War II defeat seven decades ago, with helicopters zooming across the sky in an array forming the number 70, but the event also underlined President Xi Jinping’s determination to make China the pre-eminent Asian power.
Xi kicked off the proceedings with a speech from atop iconic Tiananmen Gate, flanked by Chinese leaders past and present along with foreign dignitaries including Russian leader Vladimir Putin, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“The experience of war makes people value peace even more,” Xi said. “Regardless of the progress of events, China will never seek hegemony, China will never seek to expand and will never inflict the tragedies it suffered in the past upon others.”
To underline that point, Xi said the 2.3 million-member People’s Liberation Army would cut 300,000 troops. However, it will still remain the world’s largest standing military and the reduction comes at a time when growing technological capabilities reduce the need for large numbers of troops.
Wearing a grey high-buttoned suit of the sort worn by past Chinese leaders, Xi then drove past the assembled troops in a Chinese-made Red Flag limousine. Standing in the sunroof with four microphones mounted in front of him, he called out “Greetings, Comrades” every few moments before the troops started their marching.
The event involved more than 12,000 troops, 500 pieces of military hardware and 200 aircraft of various types, representing what military officials say is the Chinese military’s most cutting-edge technology.
The parade is part of commemorations packaged to bolster the ruling Communist Party’s self-declared role as the driving force behind Japan’s defeat 70 years ago and savior of the nation, though historians say the rival Nationalists did most of the fighting. The events also minimize the role of the U.S., Britain and others, although Beijing has attempted to stress the support it has received from a wide spectrum of foreign nations.
Most leading democracies kept high-level representatives away, reflecting concerns over the parade’s anti-Japanese tone and China’s recent assertive moves to press territorial claims. The U.S. sent only its ambassador to observe. In Washington, U.S. Defense …Read More