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China’s “Victory Day Parade”: Symbolism and Significance
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By Amrita Jash

On September 3, China commemorated the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II by holding a first ever gallant military parade at Tiannanmen Square, in Beijing. For China, the ‘parade’ comes with great significance and symbolism as it represents the “victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War”. In this high held spirit of victory over imperialism, Chinese President Xi Jinping under his supreme command as the Chairman of the Chinese Military Commission showcased before the world a giant display of China’s military might- signaling greater confidence and pride. The parade comprised of more than 12,000 Chinese troops, followed by a strategic display of its conventional and nuclear military arsenals such as- ballistic missiles, tanks, fighter jets and bombers and most importantly, China showcased for the first time its anti-ship  ballistic missile named “Dongfeng-21D”- China’s infamous “carrier killers”.

While in addition to the staging of the military muscle at the parade, President Xi Jinping in his keynote speech at the ceremony, made some strong proclamations which hold significant implications. First, he highlighted the objective behind China’s massive parade was to “bear history in mind, honor all those who laid down their lives, cherish peace and open up the future.” Xi pointed that China’s War against Japanese aggression was the “first complete victory won by China” against foreign aggression and that it “re-established China as a major country in the world”. And that the parade acts as a reminder to “learn from the lessons of history” and not repeat the “historical tragedy”. Here, it is directly pointed at Japan to which China follows the logic of “taking history as a mirror to look forward the future”, as for China.

Secondly, Xi emphasized on advancing “global peace and development” by “foster[ing] a keen sense of global community of shared future” based on “win-win cooperation.” These words can be attributed to Xi’s intention to thwart the growing global concerns over China’s aggressive military actions mainly in tensions at the South China Sea and East China Sea. As justifying China’s image as a ‘peace lover, Xi highlighted that “China will remain committed to peaceful development” as “Chinese love peace” and that despite its growing strength “China will never seek hegemony or expansion”. Thereby, by strongly projecting China’s benign intentions behind its actions in the global theatre Xi aimed to reassure ‘China’s rise’ as peaceful. Here, one can draw a parallel with that of China’s emphasis on its ‘good intentions’ of  “win-win cooperation” behind its massive “One Belt, One Road” initiative that aims to connect Asia to Europe in 21st century. 

Thirdly, Xi added a practical tone to his proclamation for peace and most importantly, to exemplify China’s commitment to peace by making a strong pronouncement that “China will cut the number of its troops by 300,000”. This reflects a decisive move on part of China when it is faced by sovereignty challenges from United States “pivot to Asia”, Japan, Vietnam and others in the global theatre.

And lastly, Xi embarked on his grand vision of fulfilling the “Chinese Dream”. Here, he emphasized on following “the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics” in achieving the ‘four comprehensives’ and others.

In an overall assessment of China’s military parade, it can be thus, stated that it was more than just a sheer display of China’s military prowess. Rather it signifies greater symbolism and significance with respect China’s emerging role in the international order. This can be said so as Xi Jinping's confident strategic move in the phase when Chinese economy is faced by a “new normal” , its domestic catastrophes in terms of the recent Tianjin blasts and most importantly, its spiraling tensions in the troubled waters of South China and East China Seas calls for serious deliberation. What is noteworthy, is the existing parallels between Xi Jinping’s preaching of ‘peace’ by displaying ‘military might’- which reflects the contrast in China’s intentions and actions . What China aspires and how it aims to change the rules of the game in the international order is a tough equation to solve.  But above all, one prominent feature of the parade is undoubtedly the rising cult of Xi Jinping. There is a strong personal characteristic of Xi’s image as China’s strong man is inherently attached to the parade and his strong command is reflective in his meticulous speech and the way he engineered the whole military showcase. Wherein, the symbolism and significance is attached to the signals that China sent to the world, therefore, making a strong case of China as a determined player who aims to defy the existing norms of the international system by making its own rules to play the game of power politics.

Amrita Jash is a Doctoral Candidate and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for East Asian Studies (Chinese Division), School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is the Editor-in Chief at IndraStra Global and a Research Analyst at the Asia-Pacific Desk with Wikistrat.

Comments in Chronological order (2 total comments)

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Mon, September 21, 2015 10:22 PM (about 75917 hours ago)
Very intelligent insight, Ma'am Amrita.
Mon, September 21, 2015 10:36 PM (about 75917 hours ago)
I can't wait to read another of your global analysis..Ma'am Amrita Jash. You are my talking/walking book. Fr the Philippines, Mayet Reyes..than
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