The huge military parade held in Beijing this week was billed as a commemoration of China’s role in World War II. Over 15 million Chinese died in its eight-year resistance to Japanese invasion.
China’s supreme leader, Xi Jinping, dressed in a finely tailored Mao suit, stood atop the Forbidden City’s Gate of Heavenly Peace to observe 12,000 troops and a legion of armored vehicles, missile carriers, and warplanes.
Interestingly, Xi underlined that China’s political development is based on Marxist-Leninist theory and the thinking of Chairman Mao and Deng Xiaoping.
China rightly observed that the West has long ignored, its important role in fighting the Japanese Empire. Without fierce resistance by China’s Nationalists and Communists, Japan might have managed to invade Australia and eastern India -though it would still have lost the war to overwhelming American power.China’s Marine Corps almost stole the show with its light blue dazzle-painted amphibious vehicles that are a clear threat to Taiwan. New Chinese fighters and tankers have almost caught up to Western technology, particularly air-to-air missiles, radars and linked command and control systems.
General Secretary Xi announced that China’s 2.3 million-man armed forces, the world’s largest, would be cut by 300,000 men. China no longer needs huge armies because it no longer faces a land threat. Many active duty soldiers have been transformed into militarized police. Military resources are now being poured into offensive strategic systems like air and naval forces or the “Second Artillery Cops” missile forces.
Xi Jinping reasserted that China’s rise was totally peaceful and threatened no one (excluding Taiwan and Japan’s China Sea islands). But it’s clear that China is determined to own most of the China Sea and is doing to by turning islets into permanent aircraft carriers. China must also be able to project power to protect its vital oil lanes to the Mideast, which would be a prime target in any new war with India.
China’s impressive display of military might and skills sends another worrisome message: Chinese military equipment and technology, once only for poor, third-world nations, is going to seriously rival exports from the US, Europe and Russia. Gone are the days when all that China exported was rice, back scratchers and paper fans.
As a former soldier and military analyst, I watched the Beijing military parade with respect and admiration. China’s soldiers are what we used to call “Strak” in the US Army – efficient, ready for combat, and buttoned down. They paraded with awesome mechanical precision and evident elan.
China has reached its rightful place in the sun after four hundred years of being raped, looted and sneered at. Good show. Now let’s all pray that power does not go to China’s head. But this war horse fears it may.