Ahead of inspecting a grand military parade on Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the formation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed that China would achieve its peaceful rise, steered by the Communist Party, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and unity of its people, based on the "One-China" principle.
In a short, but powerful eight minute-speech delivered at Tiananmen Square, reinforcing the PRC’s red-roots, the Chinese President was unambiguous in declaring that China was now prepared to “struggle” to achieve its two centenary goals — ridding China of poverty by 2021 and emergence as an advanced socialist nation by 2049.
“No force can shake the status of our great country, no force can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation from marching forward,” President Xi said.
During his back-to-the roots address, delivered in the teeth of a trade war with the U.S. and a serious unrest in Hong Kong, the Chinese President stood out for being the only one on the inspection rostrum to appear in a distinct Mao suit.
In the presence of three former leaders — Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao — Mr. Xi, in his address, referred only to Mao Zedong, the founding father of the PRC, leaving aside any allusion to Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s reforms that began in 1978.
“Xi only mentioned Mao’s founding of the People’s Republic and skipped the history between, before mentioning the present time,” observed Deng Yuwen, a former deputy editor of the Study Times , a CPC newspaper, as quoted by the South China Morning Post .
Before the 80 minute-long military parade began, where 40% of the weapons were showcased for the first time, Mr. Xi was emphatic in expressing zero-tolerance to any challenge to the "One-China" principle, which has been periodically questioned by bouts of separatism in Xinjiang and Tibet, apart from pro-independence politics in Taiwan, and maritime disputes in the South China Sea (SCS).
The U.S. naval presence and patrols in the SCS have highlighted the China-U.S. friction in the West Pacific.
“Forging ahead, we must remain committed to the strategy of peaceful reunification, and one country, two systems. We will maintain long term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macao, advance peaceful development of cross-strait relations, unite the whole country and continue to strive for the complete unification of our country,” Mr. Xi said.
The Chinese President asserted that the PLA’s role “to resolutely safeguard the sovereignty, security and development interest of the nation and resolutely protect world peace,” had been clearly defined.
Asserting that China was a responsible global powers, President Xi stressed that China’s goal was to foster a “community of shared future for mankind.”
But the demonstration of China’s military might was apparently aimed at deterring the U.S. and its allies.
During Tuesday’s parade, China appeared to highlight that the digital gap between Beijing and Washington was narrowing, by displaying indigenously developed “intelligent” weapon systems, leveraging the advancements in quantum computing, Artificial Intelligence and big data.
For the first time, Beijing displayed the HSU 001 system, which had the appearance of an underwater drone.
An array of Chinese military drones stood out at the parade. These included the WZ-8 supersonic targeting drone, as well as Sharp Sword stealth drone, which can deliver a set of missiles or laser-guided bombs, while evading radar detection on account of its futuristic design and radar absorbent material.
But in a clear message to the U.S. and Taiwan, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) rolled out the road-mobile DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of targeting any part of the globe with its multiple warheads.
Besides, the Chinese unveiled their highly potent DF-17 ballistic missile. This missile can carry a hypersonic glide vehicle, which cannot be destroyed by any known missile defence system due to its exceptionally high speed.
At the parade, DF-21D missiles were also rolled out. These are unique ballistic missiles, geared to destroy aircraft carriers — the centrepiece of the U.S. power projection capability in the Pacific.
The Chinese also seemed to have worked hard at their second strike capability — an ability to counterattack with atomic weapons after absorbing a nuclear first strike.
For the first time, the JL-2 missiles were on display at the parade. These are Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM), likely to be deployed on advanced Jin-class nuclear submarines. The JL-2 missiles will have an array of strike options, depending on whether the submarine chooses to fire its weapons close to Chinese shores or from areas deeper in the sea.
Alaska will fall within their ambit if the missiles are fired from waters near China. Hawaii can be targeted if these weapons are launched from waters south of Japan. Western continental U.S. and all 50 U.S. states are endangered if waters west or east of Hawaii are chosen as launch pads.
China also seemed to have worked on air delivering conventional and nuclear weapons; it showcased the H-6K bomber, which appears to rely on its longer range missile strike capability.
Additional fuel storage has been added, and provision has been made to carry cruise missiles with a 2,000 km range under the wings, bringing Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and Japan within its ambit.
In response to the show of strength by China, Reuters quoted Sam Roggeveen, the director of the Sydney-based Lowy Institute’s International Security Programme as saying that Beijing’s military advancement “dramatically erodes the U.S. military edge is Asia, and over the long-term, America’s military primacy in Asia is clearly under threat”.