China’s military parade on Thursday in Beijing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender during World War II was notable not only for its massive troop formations, but also its missiles.
As expected, the People’s Liberation Army featured several types of missiles from the Dongfeng (“East Wind”) family, including the DF-10 anti-ship missile, DF-15B short-range ballistic missile, DF-16 and DF-21D medium-range ballistic missiles, DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile, and the DF-5B and DF-31A intercontinental ballistic missiles — a handful of which made their public debut.
We know this because the PLA conveniently wrote the names on the sides of the weapon systems — in English, as per the image above. Here’s how Andrew Erickson, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College described it:
“All the major missiles were labeled with their English abbreviations in big white letters, likely to help guarantee that their presence isn’t lost on foreigners.”
Among the missiles making their first public appearances were the DF-21D, shown above and billed as a “carrier killer” for its ability to strike carrier strike groups, including U.S. assets in the Asia-Pacific region. Others included the DF-16, which could threaten Taiwan; DF-26, another carrier killer that could also strike U.S. bases in Guam; and YJ-12, a supersonic, sea-skimming cruise missile, according to Erickson.
Despite the display of military might (and pomp and circumstance), even Chinese President Xi Jinping hinted that the country can’t afford such a large standing army in announcing troop cuts of 300,000 personnel. The PLA is the world’s largest military force, with roughly 2.3 million service members.
“It’s a common practice for Chinese leaders to pledge disarmament after big parades,” Song Xiaojun, a military commentator, told the China Daily newspaper. Though the disarmament announcement isn’t a new practice, it’s in line with Xi’s pledge of never seeking hegemony, Song said.