China's Military Might On Parade

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

More than 12,000 troops, 500 pieces of military hardware and 200 aircraft were on display today as China marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Speaking at the parade, President Xi Jinping said he would reduce the country’s 2.3-million-strong military by 300,000. The New York Times adds:

In announcing the cuts, the largest in nearly two decades, Mr. Xi signaled his determination to press forward with his agenda of military restructuring despite China’s economic slowdown. The government will be under pressure to find jobs for the demobilized soldiers, many with limited skills.

China’s neighbors are increasingly worried about its assertiveness. The country has territorial disputes with several of its neighbors—many of whom are unlikely to be persuaded by the cuts Xi announced at the parade to mark Japan’s defeat in World War II. As my colleague James Fallows wrote:

If I were living in — oh, I don’t know, maybe Japan — I would be getting pretty alarmed just now, since the introduction for every heroic unit of the People’s Liberation Army is that their forebears “killed more than a thousand Japanese soldiers,” “ambushed a Japanese battalion,” “defeated the Japanese invaders,” etc.

Thirty foreign leaders attended the parade, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin. But the number was far fewer than China had hoped.