With eye on Japan, China plans big military parades under Xi

With eye on Japan, China plans big military parades under Xi
Paramilitary policemen and pedestrians are reflected on the shop window of a shop selling souvenirs bearing the pictures of China's President Xi Jinping (L) and former leaders near the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

BEIJING - Chinese troops are rehearsing for a major parade in September where the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is expected to unveil new homegrown weapons in the first of a series of public displays of military might planned during President Xi Jinping's tenure, sources said.

China will hold up to four PLA parades in the coming years in the face of what Beijing sees as a more assertive Japan under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who wants to ease the fetters imposed on Tokyo's defence policy by a post-war, pacifist constitution.

The parades are also intended to show that Xi has full control over the armed forces amid a sweeping crackdown on military graft that has targeted top generals and caused some disquiet in the ranks, a source close to the Chinese leadership and a source with ties to the military told Reuters.

As military chief, Xi will review the parades and be saluted by PLA commanders during events expected to be broadcast nationwide. "Military parades will be the 'new normal' during Xi's (two 5-year) terms," the source with leadership ties said, referring to the phrase "xin changtai" coined by Xi to temper economic growth expectations in China.

The frequency of the parades would be a break from recent tradition. Xi's predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, only held a military parade in 1999 and 2009 respectively to mark the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.

The military parade to be held on Sept. 3 in Beijing would mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two. It would be Xi's first since he took over as Communist Party and military chief in late 2012 and state president in early 2013.

Troops were already drilling in secret on the outskirts of Beijing for the event, said the sources, who requested anonymity to avoid repercussions for speaking to foreign media.

The sources had no details on the new weapons that would be displayed, but China has an ambitious high-tech development programme, including anti-satellite and anti-aircraft carrier missiles as well as stealth fighter jets.

Lieutenant-General Song Puxuan, former president of the Chinese National Defence University and who was appointed commander of the Beijing Military Region in January, would lead the September parade, the source with leadership ties said.

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