Chinese President during the Victory Day celebrations on Thursday, aimed to assure the world that China’s dramatic rise will not translate to its pursuit of unipolarity.
Xi Jinping used the speech at the event, boycotted by most western leaders, to take a swipe at the US.
“We Chinese love peace. No matter how much stronger it may become, China will never seek hegemony or expansion. It will never inflict its past suffering on any other nation,” Xi said speaking on a rostrum overlooking Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
Xi also announced on Thursday that Beijing would cut troop levels by 300,000, a 13 per cent cut in one of the world’s biggest militaries.
“Prejudice and discrimination, hatred and war can only cause disaster and pain,” he said.
China’s Defense Ministry said in a statement following Xi’s speech that Beijing will complete 300,000 troops cut by end of 2017.
Thursday’s parade, one of the biggest ever, was overseen by the president, in the company of world leaders including Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
In the South China Sea, Beijing has pushed a very expansive definition of its maritime zone of control leading to friction with US-backed Japan and Philippines.
China is now the world’s second largest GDP. Although its growth is slowing, it is still expanding at triple the rate of the US, EU economies.
China on Thursday displayed a host of new armaments ranging from intercontinental ballistic missiles to medium-long range bomber aircraft in a massive parade in Tiananmen Square.
About 12,000 troops, World War II veterans, and nearly 1,000 foreign troops from 17 countries marched in the parade, marking the 70th anniversary of the victory of China over invading Japan and the end of the second world war.
Eighty-four per cent of the 500 pieces of armaments of over 40 types on show at Thursday’s parade were displayed in public for the first time. While inspecting the rows of troops ahead of the parade, Xi reached out to the soldiers addressing them as “Hard-working comrades!”
Nearly 200 aircraft flew above the Tian’anmen Square in 10 echelons during the parade as guests, that included Russian President Vladimir Putin, South African President Jacob Zuma and South Korean President Park Geun Hye, looked on.
Major Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangzhou were occupied by the invading Japanese army during the war.
“In that devastating war, the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression started the earliest and lasted the longest,” the Chinese President said in his address on Thursday.
“This great triumph opened up bright prospects for the great renewal of the Chinese nation and set our ancient country on a new journey after gaining rebirth,” he added.
China suffered over 35 million casualties and the Soviet Union lost more than 27 million lives, claimed Xi.
The Chinese leader described the events during the war as “a decisive battle between justice and evil, between light and darkness, and between progress and reaction.”
Beijing says Japan has yet to confront atrocities it committed after invading parts of China in the 1930s.
The conflict, commonly known in China as the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, led to the death of some 20 million Chinese, according to Beijing’s estimates. It ended with Tokyo’s World War II defeat in 1945.
China has earlier urged Japan to “make a clean break with militarism” and build trust with its neighbours after Premier Shinzo Abe last year honoured more than 1,000 convicted war criminals as “martyrs” who laid the foundations for modern Japan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his BRICS counterparts from India and South Africa, Pranab Mukherjee and Jacob Zuma earlier in May attended a grand military parade held in Moscow to mark the 70th anniversary of Russian victory in World War II.
The Ufa declaration of the 7th BRICS Summit in July also makes references to the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, “fascism” “militarism” during World War II and denounces attempts to rewrite history but stops short of mentioning Japan.
“We express our commitment to resolutely reject the continued attempts to misrepresent the results of World War II. While remembering the scourge of war, we highlight that it is our common duty to build a future of peace and development,” said the joint BRICS communiqué.
TBP and Agencies