Beijing military parade a 'bikini show' of China's technology but sensitive parts were hidden, expert says
China’s military parade last week was a show of force but also something of a “bikini show,” revealing much of China’s new military might and hardware while leaving the most sensitive parts concealed, according to military experts in the country.
The parade in Beijing last Thursday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of world war two saw many weapons put on show, even as President Xi Jinping vowed to cut the size of the nation’s armed forces by 300,000 troops.
The decision to roll out weapons ranging from anti-aircraft-carrier missiles to nuclear warheads was designed to "impress enemies" while "leaving some room for imagination”, the state-backed Global Times daily quoted an unnamed military source as saying on Thursday.
“The authorities were as explicit about [China’s military arsenal] as they could be at this time,” a Chinese military expert told the South China Morning Post, on request of anonymity.
“China has for years been developing some advanced military technology, but it shied away from putting this on show in Tiananmen Square [during the parade],” the person said.
“Revealing that technology would have provoked Western countries and undermined the official theme of the parade, which was a call for peace,” the person added.
So what exactly does the People's Liberation Army have hidden up its sleeve?
An anti-satellite system, for starters.
After decades of hard work, China is now apparently capable of firing a projectile into the sky and having it hit whatever target it chooses.
The country began eyeing targets in the sky long before it successfully tested its first successful anti-satellite missile in 2007.
Soon after the former Soviet Union sent its first probes into orbit, the Chinese government set up numerous observatories across the country dedicated to the identification, tracking and analysis of man-made objects in near space.
The test conducted in 2007, which destroyed a Chinese weather satellite at an altitude of more than 800 kilometres, sparked an international outcry due to concern over space debris and fear of a new arms race in space.
China carried out numerous tests of its anti-satellite system afterwards, but did not hit a "live" target to avoid provoking the international community.
It was widely believed that China operated one of the biggest cyber armies in the world. The PLA has come clean about the existence of its cyber warfare units since 2011, but the secretive military force did not show up at last week’s parade.
This may have been because it remains such a sensitive issue.
The White House has long accused Beijing of cyber sabotage. Last year, the US Department of Justice indicted five PLA officers for computer hacking and economic espionage, pushing the confrontation between the two countries in cyber space to new heights.
Beijing denied any involvement in hacking activities that may have harmed another country. But during the parade, state media frequently alluded to China’s military capabilities in "information warfare".
China's cyber army has been regarded as a major threat by some countries because a massive cyber-attack could cause huge damage to a modern society's infrastructure, for example by targeting its nuclear power plants or traffic networks.
Another military expert in China said the parade failed to include some of the nation’s cutting- edge technology because this remains at an experimental stage, and has not yet been deployed on a large scale by the military.
For example, China has been conducting tests of new stealth jets since 2011, and many prototypes have been built. But it could be years before one of these plays a central role in China’s air force, the expert said.
"China can show off prototypes of some futuristic weapons such as hypersonic vehicles and laser guns if it wants, but that was not the purpose of the parade," the person added.
"China just wants to be regarded as an awakening lion, not a paper tiger."