BEIJING COMMEMORATES WWII VICTORY WITH MILITARY PARADE
September 3, 2015
On September 2, 1945, Japan formally surrendered to the Allied Forces, including the Republic of China, aboard the USS Missouri, marking the end of World War II. To honor the 70th anniversary of their victory in the World War II, or “The Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and World Anti-fascist War” as the communist authorities call it, China impressed the world with a grand military parade and an announcement of reducing military personnel by 300,000.
The military parade took place on Thursday, September 4 at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Since the Communist Party took over, China has hosted 14 military parades, all to celebrate the establishment of the People’s Republic on October 1, 1949. This year’s parade was the first to commemorate an anniversary other than the National Day.
Over 12,000 Chinese troops in 50 formations, including 11 infantry groups, 27 armament formations, 10 aircraft formations, two motorized formations of veterans of World War II, and phalanxes of foreign troops, joined in the military parade. Also showcased in the parade were 500 pieces of weaponry, of which 84 percent were shown to the public for the first time. According to China’s state news agency Xinhua, the Second Artillery Forces (SAC), China’s missile troops, displayed seven types of China’s most advanced missiles, including long-range, intermediate-range, and short-range missiles as well as conventional and nuclear missiles.
Joined by politburo members, retired high-ranking party officials, and foreign leaders, Chinese president Xi Jinping delivered a speech at the beginning of the parade. During the speech, he said “I announce that China will reduce military personnel numbers by 300,000.”
The Chinese government unveiled its plan for a military parade earlier this year in an effort to remind the world of China’s huge contributions to World War II through a massive demonstration of its current military power. China lost 20 million civilians and soldiers during the War, the second highest casualties after the Soviet Union. The military parade aimed to “help remind all kind-hearted people of the aspiration and pursuit for peace, make them work together to prevent a repetition of this historical tragedy,” said Hua Chunying, the spokeswoman of China’s foreign ministry.
Leaders from over 30 countries, mostly those with close relations with China, attended the military parade, including UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, Russian President Vladimir Putin, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged with genocide by the International Criminal Court, was also in attendance. Seventeen countries have contributed troops to march alongside PLA troops in the parade.
China’s military parade received strong responses internationally. Taiwan was outraged by the mainland’s claim that the Chinese Communist Party was the leading force during the War. On July 4, Taiwan held its own commemorating military parade involving thousands of troops and advanced military equipment. “The war of resistance was led by the Republic of China and Chairman Chiang Kai-shek was the force behind it,” said Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou after the parade, “no one is allowed to distort that.” The Taiwanese authorities also banned incumbent officials from showing up in the mainland’s parade and encouraged veterans to refrain from attending. However, former Kuomintang chairman Lien Chan, who supports closer cooperation with the communist party, decided to attend and was welcomed by China President Xi Jinping on September 1.
The United States, major European powers, and Japan all declined to send leaders or troops to attend the parade, citing China’s military aggression as their main concern. Instead, many of them sent minister-level figures or retired officials in an effort to avoid hurting ties with China. France and Australia sent their foreign ministers while former British Prime Minister Tony Blair attended on behalf of the UK.
Washington had ruled out the option of sending a high-ranking official to Beijing. However, “to honor the sacrifices made by the United States and many Asian countries during the war and in promoting reconciliation and friendship,” Mr. Max Baucus, the U.S. ambassador to China, represented President Obama at the parade. This decision was announced by the U.S. State Department before National Security Advisor Susan Rice departed for a two-day visit to China on August 29.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rebuffed the military parade “due to the security bill issue.” Yoshihide Suga, Abe’s chief cabinet secretary, said, “we will keep trying to create an opportunity for the top leaders to frankly talk to each other.”
While the Chinese authorities have repeatedly said the parade is a “demonstration of mankind’s common aspiration for peace,” many worry that China’s bravado could send a wrong message to the world, bringing more tensions to the South China Sea. “China is reminding the United States and Japan of the potential risk and cost of pursuing antagonistic policies,” said Timothy Heath from RAND. “In this political context, with China engulfed in disputes with many foreign powers over the South China Sea, East China Sea, with the U.S. over cyberspace, it carries a more ominous undertone, a more unsettling undertone than the National Day parades,” he said.
For more information on this topic, please visit the following links:
The New York Times – “As China’s Economy Falters, Military Parade Offers Chance to Burnish Image”
The Japan Times – “Abe won’t visit Beijing for WWII parade”
The Los Angeles Times – “China is rattling nerves as it prepares to strut its military might”
Wall Street Journal – “China Reveals Guest List for Big Military Parade”
For Chinese language news on this topic, see the sources below:
人民网 – “国际友人看中国阅兵：思考更好地维护并传承和平”
搜狐军事 – “【揭阅兵深层意义】： 彭光谦：“秀肌肉”挺好”
Compiled and edited by Junxiao Liang.