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China's military parade was more than just a show of power

There was a definite attempt to boost Xi Jinping's image as representing traditional Maoist values.

 |  3-minute read |   04-09-2015
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Military parades are carefully choreographed ceremonial events intended to project the power of a country and, in the case of authoritarian non-democratic regimes, its leader. The 70-min parade in Beijing on September 3, 2015, organised to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the "Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War", is the first major parade to be held during the Chinese President Xi Jinping's term and only the fourth to be held since the founding of the People's Republic of China. It is the first since 1956 to which foreign leaders have been invited.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s official newspaper, People's Daily had earlier stated that there is "strong support in the highest ranks of both the party and the military" for the event. At a time when the economy is slowing down, employees of export-oriented enterprises are being laid-off, and morale is being buffeted by the vigorous campaign against corruption in the CCP and People's Liberation Army (PLA), the parade is undoubtedly intended to boost morale. The outspoken retired PLA major general and deputy secretary general of the PLA's China military science society, Luo Yuan, told the People's Daily that the "September parade would also serve to boost the unity of the army and the people under the current leadership".

There was a definite attempt to boost Xi Jinping's image as representing traditional Maoist values. Apparently appealing to the domestic audience, Xi Jinping appeared dressed in a traditional grey Mao suit and reviewed the parade in the iconic Chinese communist symbol namely, the Chinese-made Red Flag (Hongqi) limousine. Interestingly, all other senior and veteran cadres including Premier Li Keqiang and former President Jiang Zemin wore western style suits!

China sought to project its influence by inviting the heads of state of numerous countries. Finally, 30 heads of state from 51 countries attended the parade. Prominent among them were the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the South Korean President Park Geun-hye, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Contingents from 17 countries totaling 1,000 troops including the Central Asian Republics, Venezuela and Pakistan - none of who existed at the time - participated.

China naturally used the parade to show its strength and displayed an array of over 500 weapons and about 200 aircrafts. The DF-16, DF-26, and YJ-12 intermediate range ballistic missiles were displayed for the first time ever and all six formations of missiles of the Second Artillery were led by a Corps Deputy Leader-grade officer - higher than on past occasions - from the respective missile bases namely: Base 51 (DF-21D); Base 52 (DF-15B and DF-16); Base 53 (DH-10A); Base 54 (DF-26); Base 55 (DF-5B); and Base 56 (DF-31A). All these systems entered the Second Artillery's operational inventory between 2010 and 2013, and the DF-5B and DF-31A even earlier.

Xi Jinping deftly used the occasion to also overtly push the stalled military reforms and announced a reduction of 3,00,000 in the PLA troop strength describing it as a bid to promote peace!

Also read: Why Indian Army looks weak in front of China

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Writer

Jayadeva Ranade Jayadeva Ranade

The writer is a former additional secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, government of India and is president of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy.

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