National Day Parade to Highlight Homegrown Military Tech

Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, The Straits Times’ Danson Cheong reports on the massive October 1 Beijing military parade that will mark the occasion by displaying a new generation of China-made military technology:

The Defence Ministry revealed more details about the show of military technology on Tuesday in a briefing, pointing out that the weapons on display would be “made in China” and already in service.

“They will include some new types of weapons in use in the Chinese military… They will reflect China’s ability to independently research and develop weapon systems,” said Major-General Tan Min, executive deputy director of the military parade joint command office.

About 15,000 military personnel, 160 aircraft and 580 different pieces of military hardware would make up the 59 formations of the 80-minute long parade, the Defence Ministry said.

[…] Mr James Char, a Chinese military expert at Nanyang Technological University, said Beijing is now trying to “play down how its military industries continue to exploit foreign technologies” for some of its more advanced defence technology. [Source]

China has held National Day military parades on each decennial anniversary since its founding, and this year’s is expected to be the largest yet, aimed at highlighting the military modernization campaign that has led since coming to office. Coverage from the South China Morning Post’s Minnie Chan reports further on the logistics behind this year’s parade, quoting an expert who believes one goal is to flex its military might amid ongoing diplomatic and trade conflict with the U.S.:

Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based military observer, said it was also necessary for the to “show some of its muscle” amid the ongoing trade dispute between Beijing and Washington.

“To prevent misunderstanding, most of the weapons are just strategic equipment, not tactical arms, because Beijing still doesn’t want to irritate Washington,” he said.

About 280,000 people were involved in the rehearsals for the parade and related support services, according to Xinhua. [Source]

Beijing has denied using this year’s anniversary parade as an opportunity to “flex its muscles.” From the AFP:

At a press conference in Beijing, a defence ministry spokesman unveiled more details about the upcoming parade and said that the strength of the Chinese military was a chance to provide “more positive energy” for world peace.

[…] “If the Chinese army displays weapons and equipment, then it is ‘flexing its muscles’, but if it doesn’t display them, then it is ‘opaque’, said senior Colonel Wu Qian, defence spokesman.

“In the past 70 years, the development and growth of the Chinese military has been obvious to all. We have neither intentions nor the need to “flex our muscles” through military parades.” [Source]

Washington has reportedly come to view the PLA as the benchmark to judge the requirements of the U.S. military. At Newsweek, David Brennan relays the sentiment of a former Navy SEAL commander, who refers to China’s military modernization as a “holy shit” moment for the U.S.:

Retired Admiral William McRaven—who headed the Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014 and oversaw the operation that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden—described Chinese military evolution as a “holy s***” moment for the U.S. during a Council on Foreign Relations event on Wednesday to mark the release of a new report, Business Insider reported.

Beijing has invested huge sums over recent decades to transform its military from an enormous but low-tech force into a modern one capable of force projection in East Asia and further afield. Between 1996 and 2015, Chinese jumped some 620 percent and the country now has the second largest military budget in the world behind the U.S.

The Center for a New American Security has warned that Chinese technology is nearing, or has already reached, parity with its U.S. rival in multiple areas.

This will allow China to compete directly with the U.S. to try and dominate its local theater, displacing U.S. hegemony in Asia that has been the norm for decades. Taiwan and the South China Sea are areas of particular importance for Beijing, as well as the busy south east Asian sea lanes through which vital energy imports flow. [Source]

Last weekend, a dress rehearsal for the parade was held in the capital:

BBC News reports on ongoing official security efforts to ensure that the parade goes without a hitch next week:

To ensure it goes smoothly, authorities have been ramping up security in the capital – and online – for weeks.

[…] Trains to Beijing are running numerous safety checks on their passengers and vehicles going into the city are also being tightly watched.

On the big day itself, areas around Tiananmen Square will be blocked and guarded. Local residents will need to identify themselves if they want to pass.

To ensure the sun will shine brightly on the celebration in notoriously polluted Beijing, several coal plants and construction sites in and around the city have been ordered to stop work for the duration.

[…] The tight control naturally extends online as well. Popular social media platform Weibo said it was deleting content that “distorts” or “insults” the country’s history ahead of the anniversary. […] [Source]

The New York Times Javier C.

[…N]ever [before] had the police insisted on occupying my home. I imagined a cantankerous bunch of officers spread out on the sofa, poring over books on dissident art and American politics as they smoked the night away.

[…] Even in quiet times, Beijing can feel stifling: the police, the propaganda, the smog.

But the city is in a state of extreme agitation before Mr. Xi’s parade, a show of strength meant to signal to the United States and other countries that China and its leader, who is also general secretary of the ruling Communist Party, are more resilient than ever.

[…] “Didn’t I tell you there was an exercise today?” he [Officer Wang] asked. “Why didn’t you close your curtains?”

I explained that I had, but Officer Wang, incredulous, stepped into my living room to inspect. “Keep them closed,” he said, storming out.

In the days that followed, Officer Wang called my cellphone to remind me I needed to leave and to ask where I would go. It was clear that there was no room for negotiation, that I had no choice but to obey the rules. […] [Source]

Offline and online security crackdowns in the lead-up to high profile events–both those Beijing wishes to publicize, and those Beijing hopes to downplay— are common in China.

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