BEIJING – Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday implicitly scolded Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s view of Japan’s wartime history at a reception in Beijing following a massive military parade commemorating the end of World War II.
Without naming Abe, Xi said postwar generations “should be with correct historical views and take the lessons of history to heart” and that any denial of Japan’s war of aggression against China would be an “insult to human conscience and inevitably lose the trust of people in the world.”
Last month, in a statement to mark the war’s end, Abe said, “We must not let our children, grandchildren and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize. Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past.”
The parade commemorating Japan’s defeat whipped up nationalist fervor as China faces a host of new challenges both internally and internationally.
Tanks and other armored vehicles rumbled through Tiananmen Square as fighter jets flew overhead.
At the same time, China used the occasion to give a surprise announcement: a plan to downsize its army.
The event took place amid concerns by China’s neighbors and the United States over the country’s rapid military expansion and aggressive territorial claims.
In an apparent bid to dispel such fears, Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled a plan to reduce by 300,000 troops the size of the People’s Liberation Army, the world’s largest, with 2.3 million members, in his address just ahead of the parade.
“China will remain committed to peaceful development. We Chinese love peace. No matter how much stronger we may become, China will never seek hegemony or expansion,” said Xi, wearing a gray Mao suit. “It will never inflict its past suffering on any other nation.”
Xi did not provide any other information on the planned reduction, such as a time frame. But it would be safe to say that a reduction in the number of troops does not mean China, continuing with double-digit growth in its military spending almost every year for a quarter of a century, will scale down the army’s strength.
The cut is in line with China’s ongoing efforts to make its forces more effective and modern.
Xi said Chinese people’s victory in its war of resistance against Japanese aggression re-established it as a “major country.” But he did not criticize today’s Japan.
The ceremony in Beijing, centered on the military parade, came after China and Japan overcame their most trying period of political relations.
When Xi spoke about the war victory, he said it “crushed the plot of the Japanese militarists to colonize and enslave China and put an end to China’s national humiliation of suffering successive defeats at the hands of foreign aggressors in modern times.” He described it as the “first complete victory” achieved by China.
“This great triumph re-established China as a major country in the world,” he said.
Despite Xi’s remarks, which were more conciliatory than expected, the parade was widely viewed as intended to show off China’s clout and legitimize the rule of the Communist Party.It was held as Xi’s leadership has been grappling with slowing economic growth and anger over huge chemical explosions in Tianjin last month that killed at least 160 people.
The leadership has said the overarching aim of the spectacle was to remember the fallen and demonstrate its commitment to promoting peace, insisting that it did not target any specific country.
But since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, it was the first time that China had staged a military parade to celebrate what it called the anniversary of victory in its war of resistance against Japanese aggression.
Although Japanese and major Western leaders were invited, none attended the parade, which featured 12,000 troops, 500 pieces of military hardware and 200 warplanes.
Many world leaders felt uncomfortable about the event’s nationalistic and anti-Japan nature, as well as reviewing the Chinese military in Tiananmen Square in the heart of the capital, where it carried out a bloody crackdown on protesters for democracy in 1989.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Russian President Vladimir Putin were among the most high-profile on the list of 31 foreign leaders who attended. Other top leaders were mostly from countries with long-standing good ties with China, including Laos, Pakistan and several former Soviet republics. Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes and genocide charges, was also present.
Chinese officials said all the weaponry and military hardware to be displayed was domestically made, of which 84 percent had never before been seen by the public.
Among them, a particular highlight was the debut of a range of missiles, with China’s state-run media saying the number presented surpassed any previous army parade.
They included the Dongfeng-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile and the DF-5 intercontinental ballistic missile. The DF-26 is said to have a range of 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers, making it capable of striking U.S. military bases in the Asia-Pacific region as far as Guam. The DF-5, which can carry multiple nuclear warheads, can feasibly target the continental United States.
China has designated Sept. 3 as its victory day, as Japan formally surrendered to the Allied forces the previous day.