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China’s Military Parade

*Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan 

Most recently, China has celebrated 70 years of Communist party rule and its rise to global superpower status with a grand military parade, showcasing the country’s domestic technology, and a promise from President Xi Jinping that “no force can shake the status of this great nation”. It was held in Chinese capital on October 1, 2019.

It was its biggest ever military parades which showed-off a host of new home grown weaponry. Simply it was a grand military show which reflected Chinese leadership strategic vision and confidence of its proud people alike.  

The recently held military parade had no intention or need to flex its muscles with this display as commonly disseminated by the Western media, but that the focus was on demonstrating a "peace-loving” and “responsible China” which generated great admiration among the people and regional countries too. It demonstrated new levels of innovation from the domestic defense industry, and improved strike capability.

47 out of 59 units were squads on the ground and about a dozen were airborne squadrons, each led by two senior commanders with the rank of general. During military parade 2019 witnessed the biggest number of generals taking part. A unit of female soldiers in the parade led by two women generals was also an unprecedented arrangement for the PLA.

188 military attaches from 97 countries were also participated in the parade. The Chinese Ministry of National Defence has reported that 15,000 military personnel took part, including 59 different elements of the military, while 580 pieces of military equipment rolled through the streets and 160 aircraft hovered overhead. For the first time China's 8,000 strong UN peacekeeping standby force was also participated.

China has showcased new types of missiles and unmanned platforms for the first time in it. The unmanned technologies included a large unmanned underwater vehicle, along with a high speed unmanned aircraft believed to be capable of supersonic flight. But variety of missiles was center of attraction during the said military parade.

The road-mobile DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile which can target any part of the globe was also unveiled. It is said to carry a warhead payload of 10 multiple, independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV). A MIRV warhead can be guided towards a specific target, so one could potentially hit 10 different targets over a wide area. Another ballistic missile system, the DF-17 was also showcased in the parade, said to be able to carry a hypersonic glide vehicle akin to Russia's Avangard system. Such vehicles are able to maneuver evasively at incredibly high speeds in order to evade missile defence systems.

Moreover, the JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile each made their debut at the parade in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, represented the survivability of China’s nuclear deterrence. More new missile systems including anti-ship, anti-aircraft and cruise missiles, as well as a new long-range multiple rocket launcher were projected during the parade. The HSU001 large unmanned underwater vehicle, with two systems mounted on trailers was also showcased in the parade. Each vehicle is powered by two propellers and appears to be able to mount a variety of payloads including mast-mounted optics, although little else is known

Two unmanned aircraft, one a supersonic surveillance and targeting drone called the DR-8 and the other a stealthy batwing-shaped drone dubbed Sharp Sword, designed to be launched from aircraft carriers was showcased. Y-20 transport aircraft, J-20 stealth fighters and early warning and surveillance aircraft astonished the audience during the parade.

The latest variant of China's strategic bomber the H6-N capable of in-flight refuelling and carrying air-launched ballistic missiles was one the main attractions of the event. China says it is building a "strong military" to match its international standing and narrow the gap with the world's leading militaries. For example, the missile platforms could be used to defend the new naval and air bases built on reclaimed atolls in the Spratly Islands.

Self-propelled guns, anti-tank missiles, specialist equipment and anti-terrorism vehicles were part of ground formations in China's National Day Parade in Beijing which highlighted China's advanced tanks, light-armored vehicles, amphibious fighting vehicles and airborne fighting vehicles. Logistic support equipment including water tankers, oil tankers, food processing vehicles and mobile hospitals was displayed in military parade. Drone Team showcased different types of unmanned equipment including reconnaissance aircraft, submersibles and other innovative military hardware. Furthermore, information Battle Group (IBG) featured jamming vehicles, new electronic equipment and advanced reconnaissance and navigation vehicles in the parade.

The key message is loud and clear that the PLA has truly moved into a new era i.e. Xi Jinping's new era which consists of diversified reforms enabling China a truly modern force by 2035 and world-class force by 2049. Being expert on China, there is an urgent need to improve its military salary structuring, integrated joint logistics and training regimes are all part of the mix. Moreover, China's ambitious military reform agenda involves a comprehensive and expensive overhaul of command and force structures which has to be implemented as soon as possible.

During his national speech on the eve of national day he underlined China’s economic rise and the party’s role in fostering it.

“There is no force that can shake the status of this great nation. No force can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation forging ahead,” he said. Hewing to tradition, he wore a grey Mao suit and watched the parade from the same spot where Mao stood to announce the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.

Chinese President Xi in his speech promised to “maintain the long-term prosperity and stability” of Hong Kong and said the government was committed to the political template which gives the city limited autonomy, ‘one country, two systems’.

Xi added we will advance peaceful development of cross-strait relations, unite the whole country and continue to strive forward the complete unification of our country.

Most recently held grand and splendid Chinese military parade has multiplier effects in terms of geo-politics and geo-strategic maneuverings. It was a different order of magnitude.  Through the successful staging of military parade China warned its enemies and ill-wishers to stay away from it. It highlighted President Xi’s China dream/ability the creation a new strong and sustainable security architecture in the country and the region alike.

It had a concept which included multiple goals raising public awareness of men and women in uniform, supporting the troops with a public show of positivity and respect, and using the parade as an example of Chinese military strength. It showcased Chinese military professional expertise, preparedness and tactical skills. It projected diversified achievements of its indigenous defense industry in terms of innovation, smart technologies having strategic vision. It has also a political signaling to its neighboring countries.  

China is marching forward steadily despite the ups and downs in 70 years. The military parade showed China’s new image, which would bring positive energy and influence to a complicated world.