China’s People’s Liberation Army will celebrate its ninetieth birthday with a “full-scale, head-to-head military manoeuvre” in Asia’s largest military training base featuring a guest visit by President Xi Jinping, according to a report released Monday.
The South China Morning Post cites “sources close to the PLA” as stating that the original plan to host a large military parade in Beijing is now unlikely. “There will not be a military parade on Tiananmen Square in Beijing on August 1 this year as rumoured, but a full-scale, head-to-head military manoeuvre in Zhurihe to celebrate the army’s birthday,” according to a “military insider.”
Another source said that Beijing was “too cramped to hold another military parade” like one held in 2015. The PLA turns ninety on August 1.
Instead, sources claim Xi Jinping will visit the Zhurihe Combined Tactics Training Base for the first time and watch “red” and “blue” training militaries fight each other. The “red” army will act as the Chinese military, while the “blue” force, despite consisting of Chinese soldiers, will emulate the U.S. military.
The Post describes the “blue” force as “a dummy Western force established in 2012 that was given the prairie wolf logo. State-controlled China Central Television says it has defeated just about every elite ‘red force’ sent by different military commands to oppose it over the past five years.”
The PLA officially refers to the “blue” force as the 195th Mechanised Infantry Brigade.
This month, the Chinese Defense Ministry published a video to celebrate the anniversary of the military, titled “PLA Today,” which featured statistics and historical accounts on how the military has developed its advanced skills and grown its troop numbers. “If war is declared, we are ready,” the video warns. The Chinese government has published similar videos to galvanize nationalist support for its military and recruit new troops in the recent past.
The Chinese military currently finds its reach expanding deep into foreign territory, from expanding its control of international waters in the South China Sea to deploying close to the Indian, Afghan, and Pakistani border. Military officials quoted in Chinese state media appear especially concerned of a conflict with India, which sent troops into a Chinese-controlled border region this year.
“We urge India to withdraw the troops unconditionally and to stop provocative actions,” Senior Colonel Wu Qian, a Chinese military official, told the state-run People’s Daily in a column published Monday, covering a greater press conference with the colonel. “It is easy to shake a mountain, but no way to shake the PLA.” A military exercise could serve to intimidate India as well as the United States.
Last week, China moved what reports described as significant military hardware near the border with India amid a flurry of propaganda articles in official state outlets condemning the “Hindu nationalism” of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. That move followed the publication of a Pentagon report in June warning that China sought to expand its “international engagement” with countries like Pakistan and may soon build new bases abroad.
The expected military exercises next month may also serve as a display of strength in the face of significant reforms Xi has ordered of the structure of the PLA.
Under Xi, the PLA will cut its troop number to less than half of its current number, which will allow for an expanded navy, air force, and cyber warfare unit. Chinese news outlet Xinhua referred to these reforms Monday, quoting Joint Staff Department official Zhou Shangping as stating that the PLA should be “completely capable of dealing with any sorts of security threats, and will firmly protect our country’s sovereignty, security and interests” following the reforms.