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China at 70: Confidence, ambition and arsenal

In October 2019, China hosted an extravagant celebration to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Standing in the exact same spot where Chairman Mao Zedong announced the foundation of the People's Republic of China, President Xi Jinping declared that "no force can ever stop the Chinese people and nation from marching forward". His claim was immediately backed-up by an 80 minute-long military parade exhibiting the newest additions to China's military arsenal.

Beijing flexes its muscles

Ministry of National Defence reports estimate that over 15,000 military personnel, 160 aircraft and 580 pieces of military materiel were exhibited at the parade.

China's newest medium-range hypersonic ballistic missile, the DF-17, made a much-anticipated appearance - as well as the DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile dubbed ‘the Guam Killer’.

The DF-17 and DF-26 have both attracted particular attention due to their abilities to approach a target while gliding at low altitude and estimated ranges that place US military bases squarely within their sights, obstructing the US ability to intervene in a potential regional conflict.

Taking to the skies

Demonstrating China's advances in high-tech warfare, the Gongji-11 attack drone featured at the parade. Chinese drones have gained prominence due to Beijing's leadership in artificial intelligence technology - which when integrated with drones may lead to autonomous missions in harsh environments.

Reflecting the aims of the PLA to develop information warfare capabilities, several specialised vehicles participated in the parade. While their exact capabilities remain undisclosed, the devices mounted on the vehicles are suspected of being able to jam communications.

Closing the gap

China's arsenal has included short-range ballistic missiles able to reach American military bases in the Asia-Pacific region, however, it previously lacked ballistic missiles with the capability to strike the U.S. Mainland.

Rectifying this strategic weakness, China paraded its newly-developed DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of striking the US mainland with 10 multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), tilting the nuclear balance slightly towards China.

Confidence in the Party

While President Xi's brief speech underscored China's commitment to unity, on-going struggle, and China's inexorable progress in the modern era, spectators were left with the unshakable sense of China's readiness and willingness to meet any challenge to its regional and global interests.

Echoing the words of Zhang Ge, one official responsible for the anniversary celebrations, "the main theme is to tell Chinese stories and express the Chinese people's confidence in the party and the country" - a sentiment buttressed in no small part by high-tech and diversified armed forces.

Heath Sloane is the China Fellow for Young Australians in International Affairs.


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