Show of strength

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - AP/Xin­hua News Agency/LI GANG

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping stands on a mil­i­tary jeep Sun­day as he in­spects troops of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army dur­ing a mil­i­tary pa­rade to com­mem­o­rate the 90th an­niver­sary of the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army at Zhurihe train­ing base in north China. China’s mil­i­tary has the “con­fi­dence and ca­pa­bil­ity” to bol­ster the coun­try’s rise into a world power, Jin­ping said as he over­saw the large-scale mil­i­tary pa­rade meant to show off the forces at his com­mand.

BEI­JING — China’s mil­i­tary has the “con­fi­dence and ca­pa­bil­ity” to bol­ster the coun­try’s rise into a world power, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping said Sun­day as he over­saw a large-scale mil­i­tary pa­rade meant to show off the forces at his com­mand to for­eign and do­mes­tic au­di­ences.

Live state tele­vi­sion broad­casts showed Xi, dressed in fa­tigues and speak­ing from an open-top jeep, telling his sol­diers that China needed a strong mil­i­tary “more than ever” as it moved “closer to the goal of the great re­ju­ve­na­tion of the Chi­nese na­tion.”

Xi, who com­mands the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army as chair­man of the Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion, has fre­quently spo­ken of his “China Dream” to re­store China to a lead­er­ship po­si­tion in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs with a mod­ern, far-reach­ing mil­i­tary force to match.

The pa­rade at the Zhurihe mil­i­tary train­ing base in China’s In­ner Mon­go­lia re­gion was also a sign do­mes­ti­cally of how Xi has en­hanced his con­trol over the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, just as he has over every other po­lit­i­cal power base within the sprawl­ing Com­mu­nist Party, ahead of a piv­otal party congress this au­tumn.

Xi de­clared the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army ready to de­feat all “in­vad­ing en­e­mies” as he cel­e­brated the 90th an­niver­sary of the army’s found­ing. It was the first time a pa­rade has been held to mark the oc­ca­sion.

“We need to build a strong peo­ple’s mil­i­tary more than any other time in his­tory,” Xi said as he in­spected sol­diers, ar­mored ve­hi­cles, mis­siles and air­craft. He hailed each for­ma­tion by shout­ing, “Com­rades, you’ve worked hard!”

The forces ad­dressed him as “Chair­man Xi” as they rum­bled past. The pa­rade was blan­keted by state me­dia cover­age and streamed for for­eign au­di­ences on YouTube, which is blocked in­side China.

On dis­play were ad­vanced weaponry in­clud­ing a new Dongfeng-31AG vari­ant of the nu­clear-tipped in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile and the Dongfeng-21D “car­rier killer.” Sev­eral H-6K bombers, the long-range air­craft re­cently in­volved in ex­er­cises near Ja­pan and the South China Sea, were shown fly­ing

Xi has em­pha­sized com­bat readi­ness for the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army — long crit­i­cized as a cor­rupt bu­reau­cracy with scant com­bat ex­pe­ri­ence — and pushed for an am­bi­tious mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram to make it a leaner force ca­pa­ble of pro­ject­ing power over­seas.

Xi or­dered 300,000 sol­diers cut from the world’s largest stand­ing army two years ago while over­see­ing in­vest­ments in air­craft car­ri­ers, nu­clear sub­marines and stealth fight­ers with the goal of sur­pass­ing the United States in re­gional and even global in­flu­ence.

Although China has framed its grow­ing mil­i­tary as a force for sta­bil­ity and peace, its ex­pand­ing foot­print and as­sertive pos­ture in con­tested re­gions like the South and the East China Seas have wor­ried neigh­bor­ing na­tions and U.S. al­lies in the Pa­cific.

Xi has been sim­i­larly em­bold­ened on the do­mes­tic front as he took on pow­er­ful fig­ures within the in­flu­en­tial mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment. He or­dered anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paigns that took down top-rank­ing gen­er­als and cre­ated new bat­tle the­aters that placed trusted of­fi­cers in com­mand and shunted aside oth­ers.

To re­in­force his po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion, Xi has ex­tracted tele­vised vows of loy­alty from top gen­er­als while hold­ing fre­quent events to show his affin­ity and sup­port for the mil­i­tary, in­clud­ing a troop in­spec­tion in Hong Kong in June and a cer­e­mony to present ci­ta­tions to 10 of­fi­cers last week.

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