09/02/2015, 00.00
CHINA
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Xi Jinping’s military shows off muscles to hide economic troubles

The parade in central Beijing will include some 12,000 troops, 200 fighter jets and new weapons systems. Putin, Park Geun-hye and Ban Ki-moon will be present; Western leaders will not. President Xi is expected to make a major announcement concerning the military. Monkeys, falcons and dogs have been deployed to scare birds from the planes’ flight path.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – China has carried out a major crackdown against dissidents and taken steps to counter bad economic and environmental news ahead of tomorrow’s military parade marking the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Some observers expect Chinese President Xi Jinping to make a major announcement overhauling the People’s Liberation Army.

As tomorrow’s parade nears, Xi and his government find themselves beset with several challenges, such as faltering economic growth, questions about safety regulations after the Tianjin blast that killed at least 158 people and released chemicals, including cyanide into the air, as well as concerns about the stock market, whose plunge wiped out US trillion in global stock value.

All of this might rain on Xi’s parade, which was meant to show off China’s military muscles and boost national unity. Tomorrow in fact, China marks the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War. After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese government not only signed the unconditional surrender to the Allies, but also pulled out of its forces from China and Korea.

For a long time, China’s role in liberating the country has been a source of discussion, including more recently, that of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists as opposed to Mao Zedong’s Communists.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and various heads of state and government will be in Beijing for the commemoration. Western leaders will be conspicuous by their absence, unwilling to bow before the mainland’s show of force. By contrast, Russia’s Vladimir Putin will be present, as will, surprisingly, South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

It will be the perfect stage to show off the “Chinese dream”. President Xi Jinping will speak after the parade, which will feature 12,000 troops and modern weapons systems.

To ensure that everything goes smooth, Chinese authorities cracked down on human rights activists and dissidents. More than 12,000 industrial plants suspended operations and the government restricted the days people could drive their cars, turning Central Beijing into what the South China Morning Post calls a “ghost town.

Soldiers have also deployed monkeys, falcons and dogs to scare birds from the flight path of the nearly 200 planes that will fly over the capital.*

Seven public parks will be shut, some large hospitals will halt operations, and subway Line 1, which transits underneath Changan Avenue, will not run. The city’s two main airports will close as well.

President Xi, who is also the supreme commander of the People's Liberation Army, might ride the heightened morale following the grand military parade in Beijing on Thursday to announce a new plan, sources and experts said.

"Many people in the PLA expect to see some major announcements after the parade," Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said. "Parades like this boost morale and patriotism. It will provide Xi a good opportunity to announce his ambitious plans on how to transform the PLA into a real modern army capable of winning wars."

* The impact caused by a bird weighing 1.8 kilograms colliding with a plane flying at 700 kilometres per hour is greater than that of a military shell.

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