The 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in WWII, a conflict that took some 14 million Chinese lives, was celebrated in grand fashion this morning in Beijing. Yet the fact that high-level American and European dignitaries were nowhere to be found was a clear sign of the times as tensions in the South China Sea and East China Sea, along with seemingly constant cyber espionage incidents, have chilled relations between the U.S. and its biggest trading partner.
The grand parade, which recalls one of the old Soviet Union’s May Day parades, seems at first anachronistic given China’s modern technological and economic stature in the world. Beyond the weaponry, Beijing looked modern and polished under the bright blue sky.
Still, even without key international representatives present, you have to hand it to the Chinese — like the 2008 Olympics, they know how to go big when it comes to public displays, and this huge military procession was no different.
Timing for such a nationalistic event couldn’t be better for Xi Jinping and his Party cadre as China has been rocked by economic turmoil this summer, with projected economic growth being truncated to a startling degree.
With fears of social instability creeping in, an event like this could help the ruling elite buy back a little domestic support, at least for a very short while.
The skies were clear over Beijing as hundreds of aircraft, from navy fighters to helicopter transports, roared over the Tiananmen Square as throngs of tanks, missiles and 12,000 soldiers paraded below. Looking on were China’s key leadership, and Vladimir Putin at the side of China’s President Xi Jinping.
The start of the whole event centered on President Xi Jinping, who rode down the parade line in a Hongqi “Red Flag” Limousine before taking his perch over the center of the parade-line above a giant painting of Mao.
Among the constant stream of pastel colored amphibious assault vehicles, digital camouflaged tanks, surface to air missile components and a heavy dosing of road-mobile ballistic missiles, Xi Jinping announced that China would cut its army by 300,000 troops, or about 13 percent. A seemingly odd gesture during an event that is focused on showing off a nation’s military power.
Still, such a decision is more a product of a modernizing, efficient Chinese military machine than a move to downsize China’s standing military capabilities.
The band played triumphantly on and on as the parade rumbled by, with a stunning formation helicopters filling sky over Beijing to end the affair, followed by a mass release of 70,000 doves and colored balloons.
Aside from Vladimir Putin, the most notable officials that did attend were South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye and the United Nation’s Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
The attendance of President Putin was a given considering the two countries increasingly close ties, especially on a military level, and due to the fact that Xi Jinping attended Russia’s Victory Day Parade as a honored guest back in May.
Also absent, at least from the flyover, were China’s three most prominent developmental military aircraft, including the J-20 and J-31 stealthy fighters and the Y-20 transport. Although the J-20 has not appeared in an official public display, the J-31 and Y-20 have both attended the Zhuhai Air Show last year. As such, their absence was a little at such a high-profile event was somewhat puzzling.
One newer Chinese weapon that did show up during the parade was China’s shadowy DF-26, loosely nicknamed the “Guam Killer” by western press. That nickname comes from the advanced ballistic missile’s range which can supposedly reach America’s island stronghold of Guam in the Pacific and also possibly Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The missile evolved from China’s DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile “Carrier Killer.” As such, there is a possibility that the DF-26D could be fitted with a maneuvering reentry vehicle with a targeting system, which would not only make it harder to intercept, but could also give it the ability to be used in an anti-ship role in the future.
In doing so it could drastically increase China’s naval anti-access and area denial capability, putting American Carrier Strike Groups at risk thousands of miles out to sea. Of course this is still dependent on China’s ability to detect those naval flotillas at such long ranges.
Contact the author Tyler@Jalopnik.com
Photos via AP