Officials are planning a huge military parade to celebrate victory over Japan in World War II.
Hundreds of new weapons will be unveiled during the parade in Beijing, which will mark the 70th anniversary of victory. According to officials, the army, navy, air force, Second Artillery Corps and Armed Police will all show off new hardware, writes Zhuang Pinghui for The South China Morning Post.
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Massive military parade to feature new weaponry
The huge military parade will feature 27 armed formations of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and 10 formations of helicopters and aircraft. Military personnel will pass through Tiananmen Square on September 3, according to Qu Rui, deputy director of the Office for the Parade Leading Team and deputy chief of the operations department of the PLA General Staff Headquarters.
Qu claims 84% of the military hardware will be displayed publicly for the first time. “They include about 500 pieces of land equipment and nearly 200 aircraft of more than 20 types,” he said.
The rate of development of military hardware is unprecedented, according to military observer Antony Wong Dong. “There is no doubt about the fast-growing armament industry,” he said. “New weapons come out every week. This parade will affirm to the public the military’s growing capability.”
China maintains that parade does not send aggressive message
Qu maintains that there is no menace in showing off advanced weaponry. It is common practice to show off advanced weaponry with military parades, he said. “It represents transparency, peace and friendliness … it’s not meant for any particular country,” he continued.
Until the late 1950s, large military parades were held on an annual basis. Since then there have been parades in 1984, 1999 and 2009, which marked 60 years since the formation of the People’s Republic of China.
This year’s parade will be held one day after the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender. Approximately 12,000 troops are expected to march, and 2,400 singers will perform revolutionary songs.
Chinese troops will be joined by delegations from 10 other countries, including Russia and Kazakhstan. Nations from “all the continents of Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania and America” will be represented, said Qu.
“Their participation is a clear indication of the attitude of commemorating the joint victory of the anti-fascist war and is a symbol … of enduring world peace,” he said.
Xi Jinping to preside over first military parade during his rule
Veterans or their descendants from both Communist and Kuomintang forces will be included in the parade. The majority of surviving veterans are now in their 90s, while their children are around 70 years old.
It will be the first time that foreign troops have participated in a Chinese military parade, and the first parade held during the rule of President Xi Jinping.
Alongside the parade a number of other events will commemorate the defeat of Japan. It is not yet known whether Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would be present, nor whether he has received an official invitation.
Relations between China and Japan continue to suffer due to Japan’s refusal to issue an official apology for its aggression. Historians estimate that millions of Chinese died at the hands of Japanese occupiers.
A Japanese government source told Reuters that it needs details about the September 3 parade before Abe makes a decision as to whether he will visit Beijing. According to the source, a decision is yet to be made but Abe would probably not attend the parade if he were in Beijing.
China-Japan relations could be affected by parade
Plans for the parade drew criticism from U.S. President Barack Obama’s top Asia adviser, Evan Medeiros, in April. Medeiros questioned whether such an event would indicate China’s commitment to reconciliation, and he was in turn criticized by China.
Popular tourist areas such as Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City will be closed to allow preparations for the parade. The popular shopping hub of Sanlitun will also be closed this weekend.
City officials have recruited 850,000 residents to carry out security patrols in key locations, according to the Global Times. Authorities will also limit activity on public transport, schools and industry, while private vehicle owners also face restrictions.
The parade comes at a sensitive time in China-Japan relations. Japan is becoming increasingly concerned by Chinese activities in the South and East China Seas. A Chinese land reclamation program in the South China Sea has provoked opposition from a number of countries that maintain territorial claims in the area.
Although Japan does not have a claim of its own, it is concerned that China’s push for sovereignty in the region could lead to restrictions on freedom of movement. The South China Sea is a major shipping route, and Japan relies heavily on trade to drive its economy.