China plans to hold the largest military parade in its history to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1. The parade will reportedly showcase some of China’s most advanced weapons.
AFP on Wednesday relayed assurances from Chinese officials that the parade will not be belligerent in tone, saying:
“We have to point out that this military parade won’t be targeted at any countries or districts and any specific incidents,” said General Cai Zhijun, a member of the Chinese Army General Staff, at a press conference in Beijing Thursday.
Cai said that the size of the military parade was not a sign of aggression and the Chinese army was “committed to safeguarding world peace and regional stability.”
China’s state-run Global Times quoted the State Council Information Office promising the parade would be an even bigger show than the one held in 2015 to commemorate “the 70th anniversary of the victory of the War of Resistance Against Japan,” which is China’s preferred name for its slice of World War II. The 2015 parade featured 12,000 troops, 500 armored vehicles, and flyovers by more than 200 aircraft.
The State Council Information Office also made soothing noises about how the upcoming display of military power is not meant to intimidate anyone in particular, saying:
Some advanced weapons will make their maiden appearances in the equipment formation of the parade, demonstrating the Chinese national defense’s level of development. All equipment that will be on display in the parade is domestically made.
The military parade is not aimed at any specific country or region, the office said at the Thursday press conference.
A ceremony to award highest state honors to 36 national heroes will be held to celebrate the 70th anniversary on October 1.
China will also award souvenir medals to people who have made contributions to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
Commemorative coins and stamps for the 70th anniversary will also be released. An online exhibition will be arranged for netizens to appreciate China’s achievements over the last 70 years.
Those who sacrificed for their country will not be forgotten in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the PRC’s founding. Local authorities will visit veterans, old Party members and the families of martyrs.
The Global Times also touted a show featuring performers from Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan who “love the motherland and uphold the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and support the reunification of China.”
According to the South China Morning Post, Chinese leaders are poring over a list of dozens of weapons that could be showcased at the parade, with a preference for large and impressive-looking hardware that would add to the patriotic spectacle of the parade.
The final choices will “depend in some part on relations with the U.S.,” which severely undermines those Chinese assurances that the parade will be a peaceable upbeat affair with no belligerent undertones.
“If the relationship with the U.S. improves in the coming months, then [Communist Party leader Xi Jinping] is likely to go for a less aggressive show of force in the parade,” said a “military insider” quoted by the SCMP.
“There is a lot of hi-tech equipment that has been put into service by the PLA but only a small number will be shown in the parade. It is unlikely that cutting-edge weapons, especially those strategic items such as the hypersonic glide vehicles or electromagnetic rail guns, will be on offer so as not to upset countries like the US and some of our neighbors,” another military source told the SCMP.
One weapon reportedly being considered for the parade is the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile, allegedly capable of delivering multiple nuclear warheads to targets in the United States. Chinese leaders would see its inclusion in the parade as a rebuke to the United States for installing the advanced THAAD missile defense system in South Korea.
THAAD is intended as a shield against North Korean aggression, but the Chinese constantly protest its deployment and regard it as a threat to their security because its powerful sensor systems can see into Chinese territory.
Other possible inclusions include the JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile, which is also nuclear-capable; the long-range H-6N bomber; and the Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter jet, which is in active service and has flown over military parades before.
“We are good at organizing military parades – we’ve staged over a dozen big military parades in Tienanmen Square over the years,” chirped People’s Liberation Army Ground Force commander Gen. Han Weiguo, choosing one of the most unfortunate ways he could possibly have boasted about Communist Chinese parade discipline.
“Some of my foreign friends asked me how could we command so many soldiers and weapons in a parade. And I told them it’s a secret,” said General Han. “We test our soldiers’ responses and discipline through their performance in the parades, which are part of our combat readiness requirements.”
Although some Chinese military sources said rehearsals for the parade have already begun at various bases, others said practice marches will begin in earnest once the cold weather in Beijing clears up.