China decided to reduce its armed forces by 300,000 as part of its initiative to accelerate the modernization of its military. The Chinese government aims to transfer its focus and resources to air and naval defense.
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the plan during the country’s 70th celebration of its victory over Japan during the World War II. China displayed its military power during a parade that featured 12,000 troops, a 70-gun salute, and modern military equipment and weapons including its “carrier-killer” ballistic missiles.
China will never seek hegemony says Pres. Xi Jinping
Pres. Jinping promised that the People’s Liberation Army would be a force for good. China’s military is the largest with two million armed forces. The Chinese President emphasized that China does not domination or supremacy.
He 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 from others. We must learn the lessons of history and dedicate ourselves to peace.”
Pres. Jinping added that the Chinese people bravely and unyieldingly fought and eventually defeated the Japanese military aggressors, preserved China’s 5,000-year-old civilization, and upheld peace.
He described China’s eight-year conflict with Japan as a “decisive battle between justice and evil, light and darkness.” Historians estimated that 15 million to 20 million people died during the battle. Pres. Jinping said the “victory re-established China as a major country in the world.”
China transformed itself into a world-class military power
Political observers commented that China undeniably transformed itself into a world-class economic and military power since the World War II. According to the country’s state media, the Chinese government displayed 84% of its military hardware during the parade.
In an interview with TIME magazine, Gao Feng, a Chinese military analyst said, “You can never exaggerate the power of a strong military. We Chinese have learned that we must have a strong army to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Some people commented that the parade instilled loyalty and national pride, a fulfillment of Pres. Xi Jinping’s objective to revitalize China.
One of the equipment showcased by China was the DF-21D missile, an anti-ship ballistic missile. The Chinese military could use the missile to U.S. aircraft carriers in the Pacific. According to Jon Grevatt, a defense analyst on Asia-Pacific at HIS Jane’s the DF-21D missile is undoubtedly a “game changer if it performs as claimed” by China.
The parade also provided the Chinese leaders the opportunity to stand tall and look powerful despite the country weakening economic growth.
“At a time when there has been a lot of bad news, the focus on China’s military prowess is quite convenient,” said Jessica Chen Weiss, an associate professor of government at Cornell University and the author of “Powerful Patriots: Nationalist Protest in China’s Foreign Relations.”
China’s event was “very nationalistic and militaristic”
China’s event was attended by dignitaries from 30 countries including Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Egyptian Pres. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Venezuelan Pres. Nicolás Maduro. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon also attended the event.
The top leaders of the Allied Powers including Britain, France, and the United States were not present in the event. The U.S. sent its Ambassador to China Max Baucus to attend the event.
In an interview with AFP, John Delury, an expert on China at Yonsei University in Seoul, China has a limited guest list because the was very “nationalistic and militaristic. He said, “Across Asia and certainly in the United States there are all these concerns about the hard power side of China’s rise.”
Rana Mitter, a professor of Chinese history at Oxford University commented that the presence of veterans from the Nationalistic army in the parade is part of China’s broadening narrative about the war.
He said, “For the last 30 years or more, China has been searching for an ideology that will bind the nation together after the failure of the Cultural Revolution,” Mitter said. “This is about the war as part of a binding national identity.” Mitter is the author “Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945.
China is sending a message to Japan and United States
Shen Dingli, a professor and associate dean at the Institute of International Studies at China’s Fudan University commented that China’s parade is a way of sending a message to Japan and the United States.
According to him, China is telling Japan, “Last time you invaded us, we fought you, and we won. If you don’t behave in the future, we will fight you again and win again. And we are showing you what weapons we’ll be using to win. Should Japan invade again in the future, China will fight it, and if the U.S. stands with Japan, China will fight both of them.”