China holds a military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War Two. President Xi Jinping announced on Thursday he would cut troop levels by 300,000.
Marking 70 years since the end of World War Two in Asia, China will always go down the path of peaceful development, Xi added, speaking on a rostrum overlooking Tiananmen Square.
China’s confidence in its armed forces and growing military assertiveness, particularly in the disputed South China Sea, has rattled the region and drawn criticism from Washington.
Xi, speaking on a rostrum overlooking Beijing’s Tiananmen Square before the parade began, said China would cut by 13 percent one of the world’s biggest militaries, currently 2.3-million strong.
The Defence Ministry said the cuts would be mostly complete by the end of 2017. The move is likely part of long-mooted military rationalization plans, which have included spending more money on high-tech weapons for the navy and air force. Troop numbers have been cut three times already since the 1980s.
“Prejudice and discrimination, hatred and war can only cause disaster and pain,” Xi said under a clear blue sky. “China will always uphold the path of peaceful development.”
More than 12,000 soldiers, mostly Chinese but with contingents from Russia and elsewhere, then marched down Changan Avenue, led by veterans of World War Two carried in vehicles.
Mr. Xi started his rise through the Communist Party as an aide to the minister of defense for several years starting in 1979, when China was smarting from a brief but disastrous war with Vietnam. Since he became head of the Communist Party in November 2012, Mr. Xi has closely associated himself with the military, while also pursuing a campaign against corruption that has reached into the topmost ranks of the P.L.A. command.
“Today, peace and development have become the prevailing trend, but the world is far from tranquil,” Mr. Xi said in his speech on Thursday. “War is the sword of Damocles that still hangs over mankind. We must learn the lessons of history and dedicate ourselves to peace.”