By Emily Rauhala,
BEIJING — At a military parade Thursday to mark the end of World War II, President Xi Jinping announced that China will cut some 300,000 soldiers from the country’s 2-million-strong armed forces, a move that would accelerate his campaign to modernize the military, shifting resources from land to sea and air.
Xi pitched the cuts, and indeed, the entire event, as a peace offering — a tough sell given growing concerns in Asia and around the world about China’s maritime claims and military might.
The parade featured 12,000 troops, high-tech weapons gleaming in the sun, and a 70-gun salute. There were also olive branches, floral arrangements in the shape of doves and talk of the “sunshine of peace.”
“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,” Xi said before he inspected the troops.
The public spectacle was part militarism, part memorial — a complicated bit of messaging that reflected the Communist Party’s conflicted view of history and its search for a narrative to carry the country through the years ahead.
At home, the parade was an effort to instill political loyalty and national pride — the fulfillment of Xi’s vision of a “rejuvenated” nation. As China’s economy struggles, the parade gave the country’s leaders a chance to look powerful, to stand tall and say, “Look how far we’ve come.”
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For the outside world, the parade was supposed to be a show of strength, a goose-stepping, saber-rattling reminder that the strong, respected China of today is not the country that suffered mightily during World War II.
That message was somewhat muted because certain foreign luminaries did not attend: Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Park Geun-hye joined dignitaries from 30 countries in the grandstands, but top leaders from Allied powers the United States, Britain and France did not — wary, perhaps, of being present at an event that could demonize their partner ­Japan or of being photographed watching tanks rolling through Tiananmen Square.
In this sense, the parade was about much more than what happened 70 years ago.
“It’s all about World …Read More