Amid hearsay about China's plans for a big military parade, the Ministry of Defense announced Tuesday that the celebration of the 60th National Day of the People's Republic of China (PRC) will be a "warm but frugal and cost-effective" show of the most sophisticated current weapon systems.
The third of its scale since China adopted the reform and opening-up policy three decades ago, the dress parade of the Chinese armed forces under the command of President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission Hu Jintao is going to display home-grown on-duty weapon systems of all the services. In the last two parades in 1984 and 1999 respectively, paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and President Jiang Zemin reviewed troops representing millions of service people.
Such parades were frequent before 1984, with 11 parades in the 11 years after the PRC was founded on Oct. 1, 1949. It was suspended after 1959 until 1984 when Deng decided to resume the pageantry to rouse the nation on the track toward a liberalized economy.
The strategic missile forces, China's nuclear deterrent, were for the first time unveiled at the 1980 parade, which was followed by a stunning declaration of Deng, then chairman of the Central Military Commission, on the disarmament of one million People's Liberation Army (PLA) service people.
Although being held each year from 1949 to 1959, the parades were more about morale rather than equipment as the PRC was under the arms sanction and technology embargo implemented by Western countries.
Years after the rapprochement with the United States, China was willing to demonstrate its once-clandestine nuclear missile corps in 1984. High technologies such as the home-designed amphibious weapon systems were shown in 1999.
The sophisticated weapons displays were in tandem with rapid growth of economic strength. In the past three decades, the world's most populous country witnessed an average annual gross domestic product growth rate of more than nine percent.
In response to wild speculation on China's defense budget, the Ministry of Defense said in a White Paper, which was released Tuesday, that since 1986, the share of defense expenditure in GDP has never exceeded two percent. The percentage in 2007 was 1.38, an unimpressive number compared with that of the United States 4.5,the United Kingdom 2.7 and Russia 2.57.
While GDP grew almost 69 times in the past three decades, the defense spending of China grew only 21 times to 355.49 billion yuan (51.52 billion U.S. dollars) in 2007.
Some countries often doubted China's intention of expanding its military capability. A prominent defense strategist, however, claimed such grand parades would increase transparency in China's weapons modernization.