Tanks, missiles, and troops in lock-step filed past Beijing's iconic Tiananmen Square in a massive parade today commemorating Japan's World War II defeat 70 years ago and underlining President Xi Jinping's determination to make China the pre-eminent Asian power. The spectacle involved more than 12,000 troops, 500 pieces of military hardware. and 200 aircraft of various types, representing what military officials say is the Chinese military's most cutting-edge technology. Helicopters zoomed overhead in an array forming the number 70. Xi kicked off the proceedings with a speech flanked by Chinese leaders and foreign dignitaries including Vladimir Putin, though most Western leaders stayed away.
To underline China's position that its rise is peaceful and poses no threat to neighbors, Xi pledged to cut 300,000 troops from the 2.3 million-strong People's Liberation Army, the world's largest standing military. "The experience of war makes people value peace even more," he said. "China will never seek to expand and will never inflict the tragedies it suffered in the past upon others." The Washington Post sees the move as one "that would accelerate [Xi's] campaign to modernize the military, shifting resources from land to sea and air." The parade is part of commemorations packaged to bolster the ruling Communist Party's self-declared role as the driving force behind Japan's defeat 70 years ago and savior of the nation, though historians say the rival Nationalists did most of the fighting and the party's version of events also minimizes the role of the US, Britain, and others. (Chinese warships were spotted near Alaska yesterday.)