In a surprise move, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced Thursday that he plans to cut 300,000 personnel from the country's military. The announcement came as China marked the defeat of Japanese forces during World War II with the largest military parade the country has ever seen.
The cuts proposed by Xi, who as president is also the commander in chief of China's armed forces, would be the biggest since 1997. The cuts come as China is preparing for its most significant military reorganization in decades, which will see the country's armed forces modernize, placing a greater emphasis on technology. China's armed services have just over 2.3 million active-duty personnel.
“I announce that China will reduce military personnel numbers by 300,000,” Xi said, immediately after declaring that the military was “loyally committed to its sacred duty of defending the security of the motherland and the peaceful life of the people, and loyally committed to the sacred duty of safeguarding world peace,” according to the New York Times.
In addition, the proposed reorganization will move China's military closer to a U.S.-style joint command structure, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
China's military capacity is being closely watched by the country's Asian neighbors. Several Asian countries are locked in maritime territorial disputes with China, over its claims to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. In recent years, China has commissioned a former Soviet aircraft carrier into its navy, and is currently working on domestically built aircraft carriers.
Over 80 percent of the military matériel being displayed in Beijing Thursday is being shown in public for the first time, highlighting the technological strides made by China in recent years. In addition to 12,000 soldiers and 200 aircraft, the Chinese military showed off at least a dozen missiles, dubbed by state media as “aircraft carrier killers,” according to Agence France-Presse.
The missiles could be effective against U.S. aircraft carries operating in the Pacific, the agency added.