On Sunday, China held a military parade at the to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which was founded on August 1, 1927.
The parade was held at the PLA’s Zhurihe training base in Inner Mongolia and was broadcast live on Chinese state television and made available for audiences outside of China on YouTube.
The parade involved an inspection of PLA units by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who appeared in military fatigues. In April 2016, Xi was designated commander-in-chief of the People’s Liberation Army, amid ongoing organizational changes to the PLA. He remains the head of China’s Central Military Commission.
Speaking on Sunday, Xi called on the PLA to transform into an elite military force capable of repelling China’s enemies and ensuring world peace.
“Today, we are closer to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation than any other time in history, and we need to build a strong people’s military more than any other time in history,” Xi remarked in his address.
Xi emphasized that the PLA must “unswervingly” obey and support the Communist Party of China (CPC). “Always listen to and follow the party’s orders, and march to wherever the party points,” he said.
The parade was the first of its type since the September 2015 parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. At that parade, Xi announced a reduction of 300,000 troops and other high-level organizational changes to the PLA. At Sunday’s parade, Xi did not make any major policy pronouncements related to the PLA’s organization.
The parade served to highlight Xi’s highly consolidated leadership over all aspects of the Chinese state ahead of the 19th Party Congress’ first plenary meeting later this year, when the CPC’s leadership for the next five years will be decided. Analysts anticipate that Xi may look to lay the groundwork for a third term as CPC general-secretary and president of the People’s Republic of China.
The parade included a wide range of equipment from across the PLA, coastal defense units of the PLA-Navy (PLAN), the PLA-Rocket Force (PLARF), and PLA-Air Force (PLAAF). For one, the PLARF, for the first time, paraded the road-mobile DF-31AG, a new variant of its DF-31A intercontinental ballistic missile. Other strategic rockets on parade included the DF-16G and DF-26.
Other systems on display included the HQ-22 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, which was first unveiled in November 2016, the HQ-9 SAM, and the YJ-12A anti-ship missile. The PLAAF showed off various assets as well, including the Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter, which made its parade debut, and the Shenyang J-16 strike fighter.