Wednesday 23 October 2019

China’s anniversary parade shows economic and military might

The military parade showcased China’s emergence as an increasingly ambitious global power.

The parade marks the anniversary of the founding of Communist China (Ng Han Guan/AP)
The parade marks the anniversary of the founding of Communist China (Ng Han Guan/AP)

By Joe McDonald, Associated Press

Trucks carrying weapons including a nuclear-capable missile designed to evade US defences rumbled through Beijing on Tuesday as the Communist Party celebrated its 70th anniversary in power.

The military parade showcased China’s emergence as an increasingly ambitious global power.

The military showed off China’s most advanced weapons, some being shown for the first time, as rows of soldiers marched in lockstep past President Xi Jinping and other leaders on Tiananmen Square, the country’s symbolic political heart.

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Beijing’s lengthy National Day parade showed off the latest in China’s military hardware (Ng Han Guan/AP)

Thousands of spectators waved Chinese flags and fighter jets flew low overhead.

“No force can shake the status of our great motherland, and no force can stop the progress of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation,” Mr Xi, wearing a grey Mao jacket, said in a nationally televised speech.

Mr Xi was joined on the Tiananmen rostrum by Chinese leaders including former presidents Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin.

The event marks the anniversary of the October 1, 1949, announcement of the founding of the People’s Republic of China by then-leader Mao Zedong following a civil war.

Mr Xi made his speech on Tuesday on the same spot as the former leader’s 1949 declaration.

Mr Xi, who is chairman of the body that commands the ruling party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), rode in an open-topped car past dozens of rows of truck-mounted missiles, armoured personnel carriers and other military gear.

A formation of fighter jets trailing coloured smoke and led by a plane with a radar dish flew low over the capital as Mr Xi waved to the pilots from the ground.

The event highlighted rapidly developing Chinese weapons technology that foreign analysts say is close to matching the United States, Russia and Europe in missiles, drones and some other fields.

The PLA, the world’s biggest military with two million men and women in uniform, is also working on fighter planes, the first Chinese-built aircraft carrier, and a new generation of nuclear-powered submarines.

One of the most closely-watched weapons unveiled on Tuesday was the Dongfeng-17, a nuclear-capable glider that foreign analysts say is designed to manoeuvre at high speed to evade anti-missile defences.

Another missile displayed, the Dongfeng-41, is believed to have a range of up to 9,400 miles, which would make it the world’s longest-range military missile. Analysts say it may be able to carry as many as 10 warheads to hit separate targets.

The party’s emphasis on missiles and other long-range weapons reflects Beijing’s desire to displace the United States as the region’s dominant force and enforce claims to Taiwan, the South China Sea and other disputed territories.

Tuesday’s celebration comes as Mr Xi’s government faces economic and political challenges, but the ruling party’s hold on power appears to be secure three decades after it crushed pro-democracy protests centred on Tiananmen Square.

Beijing is trying to shore up cooling economic growth and prevent politically dangerous job losses amid a tariff war with Washington over trade and technology, a dispute that has battered Chinese exporters.

The party faces anti-government protests in Hong Kong that have embarrassed Beijing ahead of its highest-profile political event of the year.

Despite that, Mr Xi promised in a speech Monday to stick to official commitments to let Hong Kong manage its own affairs despite the unrest.

In his speech Monday, Mr Xi also reminded Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own territory, of the ruling party’s pledge to unite it with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Taiwan’s unification with the mainland is “an inevitable trend” and ” no force can ever stop it”, Mr Xi said.

PA Media

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