China showed off a new missile reportedly capable of destroying an aircraft carrier as it flexed its military muscle with a huge parade marking 70 years since the defeat of Japan in World War II.
The parade, which was shunned by most Western leaders, witnessed 12,000 troops file past President Xi Jinping, along with formations of tanks and armoured vehicles as warplanes screamed overhead.
China also showed off a range of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
China has taken an increasingly assertive role on the global stage, and Beijing has become embroiled in a series of territorial disputes with its neighbours.
But at the heavily choreographed event on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, Mr Xi said China would keep to the path of "peaceful development", pledging to cut troop levels by 300,000.
Some commentators say China is seeking to send a message to its rivals abroad - particularly Japan - that it is a force on the world stage.
"By displaying so many new weapon systems and advocating the post-World War II order, China is attempting to convey a message that it has risen, should be respected, and the 'China Dream' has been realised by the Communist Party," military expert Arthur Ding said.
China is locked in a bitter dispute with Japan over tiny islets in the East China Sea, and Beijing commonly accuses Tokyo of refusing to show contrition for Japan's invasion of China.