China Announces 300,000 Troop Cuts Ahead of Military Parade

China cuts military
Chinese President Xi Jinping waves as he reviews the army, at the beginning of the military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, in Beijing, China, September 3. Damir Sagolj/Reuters

China has pledged to cut the number of troops in its army by 300,000, in an unexpected announcement made by Chinese president Xi Jinping on Thursday. Xi disclosed the news during a speech made before the beginning of a huge military parade in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, held to mark the end of World War II and celebrate China's victory over Japan.

Xi said that a 13 percent cut would be made in the country's 2.3 million-armed forces, stressing that China was committed to peace, although he gave no indication of when it would be implemented.

"War is like a mirror," he said. "Looking at it helps us better understand the value of peace. China will remain committed to peaceful development. We Chinese love peace." According to Reuters, China has cut the size of its military three times since the 1980s.

The parade itself was attended by a variety of world leaders, although many Western leaders were absent, including U.S. president, Barack Obama and Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe. There has been some confusing over whether Abe was sent an invitation—Abe's office have denied China's claims that they sent him an invitation according to the Wall Street Journal. The U.K. and Australia sent low-level representatives, although the Guardian reports that former British prime minister Tony Blair attended. Russian president Vladimir Putin was also present, as well as the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is currently under indictment from the International Criminal Court indictment for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

Heavy weaponry including ballistic missiles, armoured vehicles and tanks took part in the parade, alongside more than 12,000 soldiers and military aircraft which flew overhead during the 90-minute shot. Some of the weapons on display had not been seen beforeincluding a new anti-ship ballistic missile, called the Dongfeng-21D, which according to Reuters can destroy an aircraft carrier with just one hit.