On September 2, President Xi Jingping of China announced the country would reduce its military personnel by 300,000. The announcement was made during a military parade and show of force by the People’s Liberation Army to mark the 70th anniversary since the end of the Second World War. The annual military parade is also used by the People’s Liberation Army to celebrate the defeat of the Imperial Japanese in East Asia.
Speaking in Tiananmen Square and despite the massive military parade, President Xi said China is committed to international peace and stability. China’s neighbours are growing increasingly concerned about China’s military and territorial ambitions, particularly in the South China Sea and its efforts to modernize its 2, 000, 000 standing army.
“I announce that China will reduce military personnel numbers by 300,000” Xi said, insisting that the People’s Liberation Army is “loyally committed to its sacred duty of defending the security of the motherland and the peaceful life of the people, and loyally committed to the sacred duty of safeguarding world peace.”
“Today, peace and development have become the prevailing trend, but the world is far from tranquil,” said Xi. “War is the sword of Damocles that still hangs over mankind. We must learn the lessons of history and dedicate ourselves to peace.”
Although the cuts will still leave China with a standing army of more than two million, they will focus mostly on outdated units. The main purpose of the cuts is to free up resources and personnel as part of China’s modernization efforts in its navy, aircraft, cyber technology and advanced weapons.
“Regardless of the progress of events, China will never seek hegemony, China will never seek to expand and will never inflict the tragedies it suffered in the past upon others,” Xi said.
This isn’t the first time China has reduced military personnel. President Xi’s predecessor, Jiang Zemin, cut China’s forces by 200,000 and in 1997 the PLA was reduced by more than half a million. The constant restructuring of the PLA is largely strategic manoeuvring by the Communist Party to bring its forces on par with America.
However, the cuts also come on the eve of a major economic slowdown, currency devaluations, and a steep decline in China’s stock market.
The parade involved more than 12,000 soldiers, tanks, aircraft, new missile technologies and a 70-gun salute. The show of force is also used by the PLA and the Communist Party to remind Japan of its war guilt and its defeat in East Asia. Although the Communist Party maintains it won the war, most of the fighting against Imperial Japanese forces was done by Nationalist Forces under Chiang Kai-Shek.
China invited world leaders to attend the parade, including a host of Western leaders but most refused to attend who see the annual demonstrations as an insult to Japan.