BEIJING — China will this year hold its first large-scale military parade since 2009 to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, reports said Tuesday, with one key goal described as being to "frighten Japan."
Communist China generally shies away from the vast annual demonstrations of military might that were a hallmark of the Soviet Union.
But it most recently held National Day parades in 1999 and 2009 to mark the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the Oct. 1 establishment of the People's Republic of China.
Even now the part played by the People's Liberation Army in China's earlier resistance against Japanese invasion remains a key element of the Communist Party's claim to a right to rule.
On its instant messaging WeChat account the People's Daily newspaper, the Party's official mouthpiece, cited a Hong Kong report that a parade would be held this year to commemorate the anniversary of the war's end.
One reason for mounting the parade was "to frighten Japan and declare to the world China's determination to maintain the post-war world order," said the article, written by Chinese financial and global affairs commentator Hu Zhanhao.
"Only by showing its military capabilities can (China) show Japan its attitude and determination and let it know that whoever dares to challenge the post-war order related to China and touch China's core interests is its enemy and must be psychologically prepared for China's strong counterattack," it said.
Other reasons included showcasing China's military strength and increasing Chinese pride.
The report did not give a date for the event but said it would mark the first time it was not held on National Day.
Several Chinese media outlets on Tuesday described the posting of the article by the People's Daily as a confirmation.
'Contribution and Sacrifice'
Asked about the reports at a regular briefing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that China was planning a series of celebrations and commemorations related to the war, but did not offer specific details.
She stressed that China was both a victor and a battlefield during the conflict. "We have made a huge contribution and sacrifice to ensure the victory in that war," she said.
The commemorations were intended "to evoke in all mankind their memory of history", she told reporters, and be "a way for us to safeguard the victory and the outcomes of the Second World War and the post-war order."
The report comes as Beijing has taken an increasingly hard line towards Tokyo amid disputes over territory and history.
Ties between Asia's two biggest economies have been soured by a tense dispute over control of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, administered by Japan but also claimed by China, and Beijing's anger over a December 2013 visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead including convicted war criminals from World War II.
The countries have taken tentative steps to reduce tensions, with an agreement in November paving the way for the first formal bilateral meeting between Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the APEC Asia-Pacific leaders' forum in Beijing, but it took place in a glacial atmosphere.
Beijing, which uses memories of the war with Japan as a key tool to galvanize nationalist sentiment and deflect any dissatisfaction with Communist Party rule, remains wary of moves by Tokyo to raise its military profile and frequently says its neighbor must face its wartime history and not repeat it.
Victory over Japan, along with the economic development that has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty, are key pillars upon which the Party asserts its legitimacy.
China is also closely watching a statement on the anniversary of the war to be issued by Abe later this year to see if he alters the content of previous apologies for Japan's conduct.
Abe said early this month that he would release a fresh statement on World War II this year, but would stand by previous apologies for wartime misdeeds.