Beijing is to show off domestically produced high-tech weaponry in a sign of its increasing military confidence.
A parade is scheduled to take place on September 3, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan in World War II. Ahead of the huge event, China has revealed a number of pieces of military technology, from ballistic missiles to fighter jets, according to Reuters.
China hopes to export domestically produced weapons
Beijing has invested heavily in its weapons industry, with the aim of exporting its technology to other countries. At the same time, China is becoming embroiled in increasingly acrimonious territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas.
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As China projects military power further from its borders, many have taken the parade as a sign of increased confidence in its military capabilities. According to military official Qu Rui, deputy director of the office organizing the parade, all of the weapons and equipment on display will have been made in China, and 84% will be on show for the first time.
“They represent the new development, new achievements and new images of the building of the Chinese armed forces,” he said.
Military parade may provoke unease among Asian neighbors
Qu has denied that the parade is intended to send a message to any other country in particular, although analysts believe that it could cause tensions to rise in the region. China has territorial disputes with Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, and a brazen display of military might is sure to provoke unease in those countries.
“It’s possible that Japan and Southeast Asian countries will interpret this as a kind of warning to them,” said Xie Yue, a political scientist at Tongji University. “I can’t say whether that’s warranted or not.”
Military delegations from 10 foreign powers, including Russia, will take part in the parade, which Chinese state media claims will feature the widest variety of weapons ever seen at a military parade in the country.
According to Qu the parade will involve 12,000 Chinese troops, 500 pieces of equipment and almost 200 aircraft. Bombers, fighters and carrier-based aircraft will all feature.
Wide variety of weapons to go on display
During rehearsals for the parade, analysts have spotted several ballistic missiles including one which can reportedly strike the U.S. base in Guam. According to the Xinhua news agency, China’s nuclear battalion, the Second Artillery Force, will display 7 kinds of missiles including conventional and nuclear warheads.
“The scale and number of missiles will surpass any previous outing,” an unnamed source told Xinhua.
State media has also reported that modern tanks and missile-launchers will be involved in the parade, and an upgraded long-range bomber will fly in formation over Tiananmen Square.
Rehearsals have featured the latest version of the J-15 fighter jet, air defense expert Fu Qianshao told the Global Times. Early warning and control aircraft, commonly used for surveillance missions, will head 10 formations in flyovers at the parade.
Last weekend a rehearsal saw a formation of military helicopters fly over Beijing, and tanks were reportedly rolling through the Chinese capital. Despite the high-tech weaponry on display, defense expert Jack Midgley does not believe that the parade is intended as a message to other world powers.
“It’s to demonstrate China has achieved first-world status with its military, and to display its products for foreign buyers,” he said, later adding that foreign intelligence services will already be familiar with much of the weaponry.
Relations with Japan particularly tense
Whether it intends to or not, there is a danger that Beijing inflames regional tensions as a result of the parade. Sino-Japanese relations in particular have been increasingly tense of late.
China is upset at the lack of an official apology from Japan over its occupation of parts of China during World War II. Historians estimate that millions of Chinese civilians died at the hands of the Japanese, a fact that Tokyo has never acknowledged.
The situation worsened recently when the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a controversial shrine in Tokyo. Among the war dead honored at the shrine are former commanders who were later convicted of war crimes.
In addition to historical issues, the two nations are engaged in a territorial dispute in the East China Sea. China is becoming increasingly aggressive in its claims to the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, and has also been constructing oil and gas platforms in the disputed area.
Japan is concerned by Chinese activities in the South China Sea, where Beijing’s construction of artificial islands has raised concerns that it may restrict freedom of movement in the vital shipping lane. As a trading nation, maintaining free passage through the area is of vital importance to Japan, and the issue is a major source of tension.