As China’s Economy Falters, Military Parade Offers Chance to Burnish Image
Soldiers from the People's Liberation Army training last week for the military parade. Credit Damir Sagolj/Reuters
By ANDREW JACOBS, NYT,
SEPT. 1, 2015
BEIJING — Few things distract an anxious nation in economic trouble quite like a jaw-dropping military parade featuring a cavalcade of gleaming high-tech weaponry, 12,000 goose-stepping soldiers and fighter jets filling the skies with synchronized plumes of candy-colored smoke.
China celebrates a new national holiday on Thursday, honoring the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II with events across the country, a three-day holiday and a martial spectacle that will rumble through the ceremonial heart of the capital. President Xi Jinping ordered up the festivities long before the latest round of economic news, but the timing could hardly be better for the Communist Party as it grapples with a slumping stock market and fears that a slowdown could spur social unrest.
The event allows Mr. Xi to push a much bolder nationalist agenda just as the Chinese public is beginning to question the party’s main source of legitimacy: its ability to deliver economic growth.
“As social conflicts continue to sharpen, the party needs to divert attention, and of course a parade is a good way to do that by whipping up nationalist fervor,” said Zhang Lifan, a historian in Beijing.
Though billed as a commemoration of the war’s end, the holiday has been carefully conceived to project Mr. Xi’s vision for a “rejuvenated” China: a rising military power that will stand up to rivals — most notably Japan and its main ally, the United States. But the turn to the past has left the party open to criticism that it is manipulating the history of the war to overstate the Communist role in ending Japan’s 14-year occupation of parts of China.