Power of peace displayed at parade

By Bai Tiantian and Catherine Wong Tsoi-lai Source:Global Times-Agencies Published: 2015-9-3 23:58:01

Xi announces PLA to be slashed by 300,000 troops

China's announcement during a major military parade that it would cut its troop numbers by 300,000 by the end of 2017 is a signal that the nation's focus on modernizing its military is shifting toward strengthening the naval and air forces, experts said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking Thursday morning on a rostrum overlooking Beijing's Tiananmen Square before the military parade commemorating the end of World War II began, announced that China would cut by 13 percent one of the world's biggest militaries, currently 2.3-million strong.

This will be China's fourth military reduction since the 1980s. In 1985, China downsized its army by more than 1 million, the biggest number ever.

"No matter how much stronger it may become, China will never seek hegemony or expansion. It will never inflict its past suffering on any other nation," Xi said. "China will always uphold the path of peaceful development."

Hours after Xi made the pledge, Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said at a press conference that the cut will mainly target troops equipped with outdated armaments, administrative staff and non-combatant personnel, to optimize the structure of Chinese forces.

"Chinese armed forces will be slimmer but more capable, and their composition will be more scientific," said Yang.

Analysts said that China's move has shown that it has accelerated efforts to keep abreast of  foreign military powers.

"China is using this occasion to make it public to the world that it is streamlining and modernizing its military management, so as to increase its combat ability to match that of other military powers," Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times.

Xi, who is also the chairman of the Central Military Commission, announced its initial military reform plan in November 2013 to push for military modernization, to meet the goal of being "able to fight and win a modern war."

As Yang, the Defense Ministry spokesman, said that more reform measures will be released, Li believes that more efforts will be put in strengthening the nation's naval and air force.

"It will become an irreversible trend for China's military to shift toward boosting joint operation among different forces in the face of increasing maritime disputes," said Li.

His viewpoint was shared by Xu Guangyu, senior consultant of the Chinese Military Disarmament Control Council, who added that China, as a regional power, has the obligation to safeguard maritime navigation safety and  its sea trade.

"China traditionally has put a heavy focus on ground forces, which make up 70 percent of the entire People's Liberation Army. This percentage will change as the naval and air forces will grow bigger," Xu told the Global Times. 

Budget concerns

China's military will continue to be the world's largest even after the cut. Its defense budget will also remain at a similar level to the present. Yang stressed that maintaining the scale of the army is crucial to its defense ability, and warned against some countries' exaggeration of China's military threat.

"China spends about $53,000 per active duty soldier," said Xu, "which is still far lower than for the US, which spends $430,000, and for Japan, which spends about $210,000."

The Thursday event was the country's 15th military parade since the People's Republic of China (PRC) was founded in 1949. Some 500 units of military hardware rolled across Tiananmen Square, accompanied by 12,000 troops.

"The military hardware displayed in the parade has shown that China has improved the overall quality of its military equipment, which has made room for the personnel cut," said Xu.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Park Geun-hye were among the world leaders and dignitaries who attended.

"This parade is an important occasion for us to commemorate the sacrifices made by our national heroes during the war of resistance against the Japanese. It has also boosted the morale of the troops, continuing the dream to rejuvenate the military," Gao Wei, a major general of the PLA, told the Global Times at the parade.

Xinhua News Agency contributed to this story

Veterans join the military parade on the rostrum of the Tiananmen Square on Thursday to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory in World War II. Photo: Xinhua


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