- The scale of this parade sparked both admiration and contempt.
- PLA propagandists pay special attention to new, stealthy and driverless missiles.
- Beijing argues that, despite being the world's second-largest economy, its defense spending is less than a quarter of that of the United States.
China will hold one of the largest military parades ever on Tuesday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. Beijing also promises to show off a series of cutting-edge weapons. The military parade— part of a huge celebration— will take place at Tiananmen Square in front of guests, selected members of the public and 188 military attaches from 97 countries.
A Defense Ministry spokesperson recently said China had no intention or need to “flex its muscles” with this performance, but the focus was on showing a “China which loves peace and responsibility.” However, the scale of this parade sparked both admiration and contempt. China’s Ministry of Defense said 15,000 military personnel from 59 different elements of the military would be involved, as well as 580 pieces of military equipment and 160 aircraft.
President Xi Jinping will supervise the army along Chang’an Avenue— Beijing’s major thoroughfare— and after that, a number of marching forces, air force, and armored forces will go around Tiananmen Square. It is also the first time a team from China’s UN peacekeeping force will join the demonstrations.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is clearly excited to show off the sophisticated new weapons systems. PLA propagandists pay special attention to new, stealthy and driverless missiles. Among the devices are the latest DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile, which Chinese analysts believe can target anywhere on Earth. Is said to carry a payload of MIRV warheads. A MIRV warhead can be directed towards a specific target, then capable of hitting 10 different targets over a wide area.
Another ballistic missile system, DF-17, is believed to be able to carry a supersonic flying vehicle similar to the Russian Avangard system. Such vehicles can maneuver evasively at extremely high speeds to evade missile defense systems. Two drones, one for surveillance, supersonic drones called the DR-8 and the other is bat-shaped drone called the Sharp Sword. The latest variant of China’s H6-N strategic bomber is capable of aerial refueling and carrying aerial ballistic missiles.
The PLA has emphasized that the march will also demonstrate new levels of innovation from the domestic defense industry and an improvement in offensive capabilities. The increase in China’s military budget is remarkable and has accelerated since Xi Jinping announced major reforms in 2015. Over the past decade, the defense budget has increased by at least 10% per year — currently, it stands at $168.2 billion, the second-largest in the world.
China is also Asia’s largest defense investor, spending $56.1 billion in 2018 on weapons procurement and defense research and more than 33% of China’s overall defense budget. A defense white paper has recently called this “reasonable and appropriate” spending. China reduces the importance of this huge spending spike by comparing it to the United States, which has the largest defense spending in the world – a total of $643.3 billion in 2018.
Beijing argues that, despite being the world’s second-largest economy, its defense spending is less than a quarter of that of the United States in 2017 and costs only $100 per person— only 5% of that of the United States. China said it was building a “strong army” to match its international position and close the gap with the world’s leading troops. A clue to Beijing’s motivation can be seen from the white paper, which initially accused the United States of inciting and intensifying competition among major countries, significantly increasing defense spending, boosting nuclear, cosmic, cyber and missile defense, and undermine global strategic stability.
With the Taiwan presidential election taking place in the next three months, the display of ballistic missile systems and the emphasis on stealth and advanced technologies in the parade will be a deterrent message. The march will also seek to demonstrate China’s determination to protect its core interests, including the disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea. China considers Taiwan a breakaway province, one day to be brought back under mainland control— by force if necessary. Unity is a central part of President Xi Jinping’s “national rejuvenation” goal, which is also a major theme in the parade.