Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday said the People’s Liberation Army had the confidence to defeat “all invading armies and safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests”. Xi was addressing troops at a military base in Inner Mongolia to mark the PLA’s 90th anniversary.
After his speech, China’s Ministry of Defence said that the training exercise that included “thousands” of Chinese troops before the parade was “not related to the country’s neighbourhood situation”. Xi’s remarks and the parade come amid heightened tensions between India and China after Indian troops stopped the PLA from constructing a road in Doklam at the China-India-Bhutan trijunction.
Addressing a press conference on the parade, Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defence, said, “Training for the parade was done under realistic conditions. The training was arranged in accordance with the annual training plan and was not related to the country’s neighbourhood situation.”
While National Security Advisor Ajit Doval held bilateral talks with his Chinese counterpart, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last week that Indian officials had admitted to entering Chinese controlled territory, and demanded that the Indian troops withdraw. While China has insisted that dialogue would be possible only after the Indian forces were withdrawn, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had suggested both countries pull their forces back.
At the parade, Xi said China needed a strong military more than ever. “Our heroic armed forces have the confidence and capability to defeat all invading enemies and safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests… The world is not all at peace, and peace must be safeguarded. Today, we are closer to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation than at any other time in history and we need to build a strong people’s military more than at any other time in history,” he said.
The event also marked Xi’s first large-scale parade in a military base. State-run news agency Xinhua reported that this was the first time China’s Army Day was commemorated with a military parade since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Xi is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC)’s Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission.
Xi also ordered the PLA to follow the “absolute leadership” of the CPC. “Officers and soldiers, you must unswervingly stick to the fundamental principle and system of the Party’s absolute leadership over the army, always listen to and follow the Party’s orders, and march to wherever the Party points to,” he said. Xi added that the PLA should uphold combat effectiveness as the “sole and fundamental” standard for the military.
“The PLA must focus on war preparedness and forge an elite and powerful force that is always ready for fight, capable of combat, and sure to win,” Xi said.
According to China’s Ministry of Defence, the Army Day parade included 12,000 troops, 600 pieces of armament and 100 aircraft. Chinese MoD spokesperson Ren said, “The parade was a breakaway from the formalities of ceremonial parades. No military bands, no public attendance, no grooming and even no goose-stepping marches were held to minimise irrelevant elements and mimic actual combat.”