“Although billed as a celebration of victory in World War II, the Beijing parade really marks China's coming-out party as a great military power, a status it has not occupied for nearly two centuries,” Freeman said.
“Much of the weaponry on display — all of it said to be in service in the People's Liberation Army — will be new, the product of a military modernization drive aimed at ensuring that China can never again be attacked with impunity or overrun by foreign invaders,” he said.
China’s “century of powerlessness” from 1840 to 1948, culminating in the 20 million killed at the hands of Imperial Japanese Army invaders from 1937 to 1945, motivated the current national consensus to keep the country strong, united and secure, Freeman said.
However, China’s leaders are not threatening neighbors or developing aggressive policies, Freeman emphasized.
“The Chinese …make the point that only those with plans to attack them need fear the PLA [People’s Liberation Army],” he said. “Still, the more foreign forces attempt to retain their …ability to overwhelm Chinese defenses, the more China is driven to acquire the ability to take the military offensive.”
“Japan's inability to come to grips with its despicable behavior in China, Korea, and elsewhere in Asia in the first half of the 20th century has prevented the reconciliation and reduction of tensions that occurred in post-war Europe,” Freeman argued.
The difficulty this continues to cause for Japan's relations with its neighbors has revived a strategic context of renewed Sino-Japanese rivalry, the expert stated.
“The United States, once allied with a weakened China against a rising Japan, now finds itself allied with a weakened Japan that is increasingly at odds with a rising China,” he said. “The awkwardness of this alignment has precluded US participation in the celebrations in Beijing.”
What might have been a celebration of past Sino-American cooperation has instead become a harbinger of Sino-Russian collaboration in countering US policies aimed at sustaining American global dominance, he pointed out.