In a spectacular show of strength, tanks, missiles and troops filed past the iconic Tiananmen Square in Beijing in perfect military precision at the victory parade on September 3. The parade was held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan’s World War II defeat. The military pageant, which involved 12,000 troops, 500 pieces of cutting-edge military hardware and 200 aircraft, made a compelling power statement and underlined China’s President Xi Jinping’s determination to make China the sole Asian power. Addressing a huge gathering at Tiananmen Square that included some major world leaders, President Xi said, “The aim of our commemoration is to bear history in mind, honour all those who laid down their lives, cherish peace and open up the future”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were among world leaders present at China’s V-Day parade. Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh represented India at the parade.
PLA to be pruned by 300,000 troops
President Xi also promised to cut its 2.3 million troops by 300,000, though he did not give any specific timeline on when the cuts would begin. The official stand is that reducing the troops is a measure to curb corruption. Yet one cannot overlook the fact that China’s economy is at its worst in the last 25 years after it rapidly slowed down and its stock markets took a beating recently. The announcement to cut troops comes as a surprise considering China has land and sea disputes with its neighbours.
Hegemony versus Peaceful Rise
Reinforcing the much-touted narrative of China’s peaceful rise, the Chinese president also underlined his country would “never seek hegemony or expansion.” “It will never inflict its past suffering on any other nation,” he said in a veiled allusion to Japan’s purported atrocities during occupation of parts of China during World War II. “War is like a mirror. Looking at it helps us better understand the value of peace. China will remain committed to peaceful development. We Chinese love peace.”
This statement of assurance is bound to evoke much skepticism given widespread concern in the region over China’s assertive posturing in South China Sea.
China’s fast-track military modernisation has the potential to trigger an arms race in Asia, with India also looking to strengthen its military capabilities. China’s display is also likely to rattle Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo, Abe who has been relentlessly pushing for strengthening Japan’s military. He is likely to push for spending more on military modernisation, which is something Japan hasn’t done in many years.
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