The fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter and the new Z-8L helicopter will be part of the military parade that will be taken out marking the centenary celebrations of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Several warplanes are also expected to participate in a show of strength and support to the Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also the chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC).
CMC is the overarching body that controls the two million-strong People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Chinese state media agency Xinhua reported that a rehearsal of the celebrations took place in the late hours of Saturday at the Tiananmen area in Beijing.
The four-part rehearsal included a warm-up, a grand gathering, and entry and exit, as well as preparations in the event of an emergency, the report said.
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A Display Of ‘Military Might’
Among other aviation weaponry on display, the J-20, an advanced stealth fighter jet, and Z-8L, a type of newly developed helicopter, have created quite a buzz among the citizens and media.
J-20 is the world’s third operational fifth-generation stealth fighter jet currently in service with China’s PLA Air Force.
The Z-8L is a heavy-lift transport helicopter, the first in the 15 ton-class in China. Equipped with advanced technological systems such as “radar warning receiver and infrared decoys”, it is capable of transporting all-terrain assault vehicles.
Experts have compared the helicopter to the US Marine Corps CH-53 and the Russian Mi-17.
Other specifics of the celebrations include an aerial show in which J-10 fighter jets flying in a formation representing “71,” to mark the date ‘July 1’.
Xi’s Hold Over PLA
The military might and show of state-of-the-art weaponry come as Xi is increasing his hold on the communist party and the PLA.
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Rising through the ranks of the CPC, Jinping became the General Secretary of the Party in 2012 replacing Hu Jintao as President of the People’s Republic of China (China’s official name).
Since assuming power, military reforms have been one of Xi’s agenda in pushing forth China’s global presence. With his dual role as the President of China and the CMC chairman, Xi wields unparalleled influence over political and military issues.
In light of the many reforms, one of them brought all departments in the PLA directly under the control of the CMC, headed by Xi.
Commenting on the complex relationship between Chinese President Xi and the Chinese Military (PLA), Ananth Krishnan, the author of India’s China Challenge noted that declaration of PLA’s loyalty to the Party is reiterating exercise and military trainees have to learn the “Xi Jinping Thought”, additionally to Marxism and Mao Zedong.
PLA recently launched a domestic campaign to carry a nationwide tour of the national flag that “once was raised on ‘Pangong Lake’ to stroke nationalistic sentiments and commit “unequivocal support” to Xi, according to a report by The Hindu.
The centenary celebrations will be held in the wake of the G7 summit held in the UK where growing Chinese clout dominated the agenda. The communiqué, an official statement on discussions agreed by all member-states, openly criticized China.
The demands raised by the most powerful club of the world included a more transparent study on the origin of Covid-19, the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea along with the announcement of a robust infrastructure initiative called ‘Build Back Better’ as a counter to China’s ambitious BRI.
The scathing attack on China comes as Beijing continues to intimidate Taiwan and other South China Sea littoral states. The PLA Navy recently held an amphibious naval training exercise off Fujian province, overlooking the small island.
Visibly vexed China hit back with a statement released by the Chinese Embassy in London. “The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone,” the statement said.
Calling it a “systematic condemnation against and interference in China by major Western powers,” state-owned Global Times published an editorial on the communiqué, calling it a “weak” anti-China unity carried forward solely by US hegemonic tendencies.
This could further complicate the relationship between the two superpowers and irk Xi to carry on with his agenda of increasing China’s global presence and prestige through military and economic means.
The India Factor
This development comes on the eve of the first anniversary of the deadly Galwan Valley clash between India and China that had ripple effects on political, economic, and strategic ties between the two neighbors.
As per reports, PLA is continuing to strengthen border infrastructure indicating its intention of staying for the long haul. At present, around 50,000 troops are deployed close to the Indian territory in Eastern Ladakh.
For India, the border crisis remains as vulnerable as it was a year ago. While the disengagement process has been inked and remains partially completed, the de-induction of troops from both sides is yet to take place.