TAIPEI — China demonstrated more than just its growing military capability during a celebratory parade this week commemorating the 70th anniversary of its victory over imperialist Japan.
The leadership review stand left no guesswork about who is in charge of China's military, with President Xi Jinping not sharing the stand with anyone within the party leadership, except former Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Instead of party members, Russian President Vladimir Putin stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Xi.
"It was all eyes on Xi," said Mark Stokes, a former senior country director for the Pentagon's China desk in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense. "Definitely put an end to the idea of collective leadership. Xi was firmly in charge, and only Xi."
Stokes is now executive director of the Project 2049 Institute.
"We Chinese love peace," Xi said. "No matter how much stronger it may become, China will never seek hegemony or expansion."
"The PLA is modernizing for gaining air and sea denial and control well out beyond the first island chain," Cronin said. "An over-sized army is extra baggage for this high-tech, missile, airpower, cyber and space force."
"Xi has placed himself at the pinnacle of every decision-making body, whether that is the military, or cyberspace or crisis management," Cronin said.
The parade also neglected to give the armed forces of the Republic of China (ROC) or the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalists) any credit for defeating the Japanese.
"It is obvious that the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] wanted to reinforce its successor state myth, that is, the ROC ceased to exist in 1949 and therefore the CCP represents the successes and interests of Chinese people on Taiwan," Stokes said. "I didn't hear them mention the ROC once. This was a huge slam against Taiwan."
Vasiliy Kashin, a China defense specialist at the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said there is debate on whether the DF-5B is a new production series or an upgraded variant of the DF-5A.
"My understanding is that basically the missile is comparable to the old Soviet R-16 [SS-7 Saddler] ICBM and requires lengthy prestart preparation and refueling, which limits its usefulness for a second strike and that cannot be solved by simple modification of this missile," Kashin said. "Most likely the creation of a MIRVed version of the DF-5 is a temporary solution before MIRVed DF-41 ICBMs are deployed in sufficient numbers. Still, the deployment of a [DF-5B] MIRVed ICBM is a major development, which proves that the old minimum deterrence doctrine is being abandoned."
"The size of the warhead section [on the DF-5B] gives an indication of the challenge to develop multiple warheads for the solid-fuel missiles," he said. "Yet, given China's focus on solid-fueled mobile missiles [DF-31A ICBM] to reduce vulnerability, it is kind of amazing to see that the old liquid-fuel, silo-based DF-5 continues to live on in Chinese military planning more than three decades after the original system was first deployed."