12,000 troops paraded through Beijing on Thursday to celebrate the 70th anniversary of China’s victory of Japan in World War II. They were accompanied by some of China’s latest ballistic missiles and a choreographed flyover of advanced bombers and fighters. One weapon on display has been dubbed the “Guam Killer”, presumably because it has been designed to hit the U.S. Pacific base on that island. And all of this bravado was accompanied by sightings of Chinese warships in the Bering Sea, reportedly the closest China’s navy has ever come to U.S. shores without being officially invited.
In his remarks at the parade, President Xi Jinping did a little counter PR, announcing that the military would cut 300,000 military personnel and proclaiming a commitment to world peace. Yet regional analysts don’t see his hollow rhetoric as a sign of real Chinese relaxation, according to the New York Times:
Rory Medcalf, the head of the National Security College at the Australian National University in Canberra, said the reductions were unlikely to ease regional worries about China’s growing military strength, because they were part of the modernization program to shift the People’s Liberation Army’s resources from traditional land forces.”
It would seem to be a pleasant surprise, because he’s clearly dressing it up as a signal of peace and good will,” Professor Medcalf said by telephone. “But China probably doesn’t need an army as large as it has.”
“Personnel are a massive cost in a military budget, and there’s been a lot of growth in military wages in China in recent years, so there are sensible capability reasons to cut personnel numbers without cutting effectiveness,” Professor Medcalf said. “This could also free up part of the budget for rebalancing the P.L.A. towards more advanced capabilities.”
This morning Australia asked to participate in joint military drills between India, Japan, and the United States. Japan is already a new addition to the planned exercises, which will be the first to include a third country since 2007. Don’t look for Xi’s announcement to do anything to ease these tensions in the region, or stop nations from coming together in a coalition to balance China’s power.