China’s President Xi Jinping, clad in combat fatigues and overseeing one of the largest displays of military might in recent memory, applauded members of the nation’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Sunday while warning them to remain “ready for fight, capable of combat, and sure to win.”
The PLA will observe its 90th anniversary on August 1. To celebrate, the Chinese government staged massive military exercises in the Inner Mongolia region, overseen by Xi and culminating with a presidential address to the troops. An estimated 12,000 troops participated in the exercises at Zhurihe, the largest military training facility in Asia. In addition to the exercises, the Chinese military paraded a variety of new armored vehicles, aircraft, and other hardware, publishing a number of photos of the display online:
— People’s Daily,China (@PDChina) July 30, 2017
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) July 31, 2017
The Chinese state outlet People’s Daily counted 18 helicopters landing and participating in the parade after forming the number 90 in the sky. The newspaper claims the event “had more of a combat feel” than the average parade, quoting an official who noted, “Here, the soldiers have stares that kill.”
“Late leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping also inspected troops in the field at key moments in history,” the People’s Daily noted.
The military exercises replaced the traditional military parade in Beijing, which often causes significant disruption in the capital’s traffic patterns and state of affairs, instead offering a more aggressive image of the military separate from the throngs of civilians typically attending Beijing’s festivities.
According to Chinese government outlet Xinhua, Xi “outlined a blueprint for the Party and the state, pointing the direction for future development” while speaking to the troops. “Building a moderately prosperous society by 2020 is a promise the CPC has made to the people and to history,” Xi reportedly stated, while urging “all-out efforts” in “preventing and defusing major risks, relieving poverty, and preventing and controlling pollution.”
Xi also asserted that the Chinese military could destroy “all invading enemies” and “make new contributions towards realization of the China dream of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and safeguarding world peace.” The “China dream” is a concept meant to be a reference to the “American dream,” but is rooted in communism.
On military matters specifically, Xi reportedly told troops that “the PLA must regard combativeness as the sole and fundamental benchmark, focus on war preparedness, and forge an elite and powerful force that is always ‘ready for fight, capable of combat, and sure to win.'” He also reportedly warned that the military requires constantly improving “political awareness” and “reform,” suggesting a keen eye towards highlighting and removing any soldiers who do not embrace Chinese communism.
“Officers and soldiers, you must unswervingly stick to the fundamental principle and system of the Party’s absolute leadership over the army,” he said, “always listen to and follow the Party’s orders, and march to wherever the Party points to.”
The organizers of the event agreed that the message of the Chinese military’s display was the ideological unity and strength of the Chinese armed forces, who hoisted hammer and sickle flags and marched in lockstep as well as participating in exercises.
“The parade demonstrated the self-consciousness of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to safeguard the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core and the PLA’s loyalty to the CPC,” the commander in chief of the parade, Han Weiguo, told Xinhua. “The parade showed to the world the power and capacity of the PLA, strengthened the PLA’s determination to build a stronger force, raised the morale of PLA troops and will inspire the whole nation in the pursuit of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation,” he continued.