What was China’s military parade about?

Read few comments.

Theresa FallonSenior Associate, European Institute for Asian Studies (EIAS)

At a time when the Communist Party’s monopoly on power may come under pressure with what has been described as the unraveling of the “China Myth” recently highlighted by the stock crash, the corruption which lead to the Tianjin blast and now a time of economic slowdown the military parade offers a welcome distraction from these problems and gives Chinese leaders a chance to showcase China’s military might in a carefully choreographed spectacle aimed at shoring up nationalism and most importantly support for the Chinese Communist Party. Not everything went to plan though: ethnic “splittism” was represented by an armed uprising in Xinjiang as the much prepared parade began in Beijing.

Far from Tiananmen Square but to my mind part of the parade was a demonstration of the PLA’s growing maritime might as five PLAN ships sailed off the coast of Alaska while President Obama was there. This sent a message of how China’s PLA(N) aims to be a global player and signals that it will be active in the Arctic as well

Edward FriedmanProfessor, Political Science Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison

1. Having recently re-watched a number of past military parades in Beijing going back to 1954, what struck me is how little they revealed about what was going on at the level of high politics in China unless you already knew what you were looking for. In that context, analysts would expect the military parade on September 3 to be a celebration of the power of Supreme Leader Xi.

2. Of course Mr. Xi will be upset that so many world leaders will not be there to celebrate his power and the power of his PRC. He and other CCP leaders will interpret this supposed snub as a lack of respect for Chinaand an unwillingness to recognize China’s rise toward superpower status (although the CCP cannot call itself a superpower because “superpower” (as “hegemon”) is an evil status pinned on the USA and USSR for their supposed quest for power which is said to be anti-China).

This interpretation of China as disrespected will then further legitimate more budget and political clout for the CCP military and for an understanding of the world so that China is imagined as a misunderstood victim that at long last must stand up for China and justice.

Daniel Lynch, Associate Professor, School of International Relations, USC US-China Institute, University of Southern California

1. The CCP would have spent a great deal of time and effort preparing the parade, but I can’t help but think most Chinese people would look upon it as somewhat ridiculous in the light of all the problems China is currently facing; not only economic problems but also the near-certainty, it is now clear, that Uighur separatists were behind the terrorist attack last month in Bangkok.  The primary target would have been Chinese tourists.  Information doesn’t flow as freely in China as it does in most parts of the world, but there is little doubt that Chinese netizens would know about these developments and thus quite probably consider the CCP’s parade as a cynical attempt to distract their attention.  The parade could paradoxically, therefore, end up hurting the Party politically as opposed to helping it.

2. Certainly it makes a difference that most Western countries look askance on the military parade.  The absence of high-level Western representatives underscores that the CCP lacks “convening power:” that it can’t determine the global agenda and compel everyone to focus on whatever obsesses the CCP at a given time.  I tend to think that 5-6 years ago, Beijing would have had a better chance of pressuring Western leaders into attending an event of this nature.  But the crack-up of China’s economic rise coupled with the brusque and obnoxious PRC posture in the South China Sea means that most Western countries and even some of China’s immediate neighbors don’t feel comfortable about endorsing anything that smacks like this of Chinese militarism.

Lawrence C. ReardonAssociate Professor of Political Science, Coordinator, Asian Studies Minor, University of New Hampshire

1. For Chinese leaders, it is very important.  With the downturn in the economy, the stock market debacle, the incertitude brought about the by Xi’s “Flies and Tigers” anti-corruption campaign, and the huge industrial accidents in Tianjin and Shandong, Xi Jinping needs to demonstrate the power of the party by showing off the Army and China’s latest weapons.  The parade is a source of legitimacy…like Deng in 1984 demonstrating that he was in command and ready to transform China’s economy.

2. Yes…the absence of top Western leaders is significant.   Most of those countries who are sending their top leaders did not fight Japan directly, but they certainly want Chinese investment and good will.  Western countries do not want to upset the power balance in East Asia, which their presence would do by appearing on the reviewing stand with Xi Jinping.  These leaders are more concerned about stability in the region, not their own economic welfare.  This is not a parade to show the Allied alliance during WWII in Asia…it is a parade to demonstrate China’s power in Asia today.

Nathan K. H. LiuAssociate Professor, Ming Chuan University

1. The political implication for Xi Jinping is two fold:
1. The consolidation of the political support after the large scale anti-corruption campaign ​given the possible fightback of the former CCP leader Jiang Zeming remaining power–corrupt leaders were basically Jaing’s allies days back in Jiang’s era.
2. To monopolize the interpretation on the history of Anti-Japanese Invasion War so as to gain the legitimacy of standing against Japanese claim over territory disputes in East China Sea.

2. ​This is actually a direct consequence of the hegemony struggle between China and the US in Pacific region, not necessarily West-China relations, Putin does come. Besides, it does not seem appropriate to celebrate the victory over Japan with a large scale military parade, more like a military strength showoff then celebration. Main Western countries do not want to endorse this kind of militarism. ​

David Goodman, Emeritus Professor, University of Sydney

This is of course a very unusual military parade. Not the usual sort and even those are quite rare in China during the last thirty years. This one though is clearly only for domestic consumption, hence the relative absence of visitors and foreigners. If my understanding is correct even the Nationalist Troops represented will not be from the current regime on Taiwan, but form the descendants of an army that defected to the Communists during the last Civil War.
The point of the exercise is to reinforce CCP legitimacy and especially that of President Xi. Posters advertising the event and the day have his photograph all over them. He wasn’t of course born at the time. There are two constituencies he’s playing to: the party who fears what reform is bringing; and the people who need reminding of the worthwhileness of CCP rule.

Because this is for domestic consumption the leadership really hasn’t bothered about whom it might offend too much.



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