China military
A poll indicates most Chinese citizens believe their country will be at war with Japan in coming years. Getty Images

China announced it will hold a rare large-scale military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Chinese media have described the goal of the parade as twofold: to flex China’s military might and “frighten” historic rival Japan.

An opinion piece originally posted on the WeChat messaging account of the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, said the military parade will be the first since 2009 and the first to occur under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. Citing Wen Wei Po, a pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper, the article said the parade will have “significant political implications,” adding its purpose was to “frighten Japan and declare to the world China’s determination to maintain the postwar world order.”

“Only by showing its military capabilities can [China] show Japan its attitude and determination and let it know that whoever dares to challenge the postwar order related to China and touch China’s core interests is its enemy and must be psychologically prepared for China’s strong counterattack,” the article said.

The article also takes issue with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who made a historic decision last summer with the announcement the country would step away from its 60-year-long postwar pacifism policy. The change sent waves through Japan and China at the time, with many Japanese worrying about the abandonment of one of the tenets of post-World War II foreign policy and many Chinese seeing the move as military provocation. While Abe assured that the country will still operate under the “general principle that we cannot send troops overseas,” the overturning of the ban will allow for “collective self-defense” and aid to an allied country under attack.

While the Chinese article did not say when the parade will be held, it's likely it will take place in Beijing in September. China often refers to the end of the “Anti-Fascist War,” its name for World War II, as Sept. 3, 1945, when Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender in Tokyo.

Abe recently said he would change the tone of his statement regarding the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, compared to what his predecessors said about Japanese aggression. He would highlight instead, he said, Japan’s postwar contributions to peace in Asia and the world. The comment prompted China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying to question the motive behind Abe shifting the focus of the statement. “We follow closely what attitude the Japanese government and leaders adopt and what message they send when it comes to the history of aggression,” Hua said during a press briefing Monday. “Are they trying to deny or water down that part of history, and carrying on the negative aspects?”

While tensions between Asia’s two economic powers date back decades, recent disputes have exacerbated them. The two nations both lay claim to a cluster of resource-rich islands in the East China Sea, known as the Diaoyu to China and the Senkaku to Japan. That has prompted military standoffs and battles of soft power.