What Can China's Most Powerful Weapons Do? Military Shows Off Missile with Longest Range in the World And More

China has shown off some of its most advanced weapons in an elaborate display designed to celebrate the capabilities of the world's largest military on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic.

The Chinese People's Liberation Army has evolved from a revolutionary guerilla group to one of the world's foremost armed forces over the course of those seven decades. Standing where founding father Mao Zedong announced the establishment of the communist government that continues to dominate Beijing to this day, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced his intention to continue the country's rapid rise.

"There is no force that can shake the foundation of this great nation, no force can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation forging ahead," Xi told a massive gathering at Tiananmen Square.

Symbolizing the military might Xi has vowed to further modernize in the coming decades, a National Day parade was held, mobilizing what was said to be some 15,000 personnel, along with 160 aircraft and 580 pieces of weaponry and equipment. The exhibition gave a rare glimpse at some of China's top defense assets.

china military parade anniversary missile
The Chinese military's new DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles, which can reportedly reach the United States in 30 minutes, are seen at a parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, October 1. The advanced missile was one of many powerful weapons seen on display. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Among the most talked-about appearances was the nuclear-capable Dongfeng-41, or DF-41, intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). With an estimated range of some 7,460 to 9,320 miles, it has been hailed as the world's longest-range missile and may be capable of carrying up to 10 warheads at Mach 25⁠—or 25 times the speed of sound⁠—across the globe, potentially striking the U.S. in about a half-hour, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Other ICBMs included the recently-developed DF-31AG and the massive DF-5B a Cold War-era staple of China's missile force. A modern addition to China's medium-range arsenal spotted Tuesday included the Dongfeng-17, or DF-17, which was believed to be part of a new generation of hypersonic missiles reportedly capable of thwarting all existing defense systems using a highly-maneuverable glide vehicle.

Another featured medium-range ballistic missile known as the DF-21 has been nicknamed "carrier killer" due to the threat it posed to U.S. aircraft carriers challenging Chinese claims in the Pacific. It has a range of around 1,330 miles and has land-attack and anti-ship variants.

Beijing has developed a comprehensive arsenal of medium and intermediate-range weapons, including the so-called "Guam killer" DF-26 also seen Tuesday, giving it a distinct advantage over Washington and Moscow, which in 1987 signed the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty banning such weapons. With the U.S. leaving the deal last month and Russia following shortly after, however, Chinese and Russian officials have warned of a potential "arms race" erupting among the world's top military powers.

Further showing off its push to prepare for combat in the 21st century, Chinese forces also unveiled a fleet of stealth drones, including the high-flying, high-speed WZ-8 and the GJ-2 and GJ-11 combat-capable unmanned aerial vehicles.

china military missile arsenal range chart
A chart designed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Missile Defense Project displays some of China's most advanced missiles as of June 15, 2018. Center for Strategic and International Studies Missile Defense Project

While still lagging behind the Pentagon's overall military strength, China's growing defense capabilities have repeatedly elicited concerns from the U.S. Last week, the Congressional Research Service released a report detailing the Beijing's ascension as a leading naval power.

"China's navy is viewed as posing a major challenge to the U.S. Navy's ability to achieve and maintain wartime control of blue-water ocean areas in the Western Pacific—the first such challenge the U.S. Navy has faced since the end of the Cold War—and forms a key element of a Chinese challenge to the long-standing status of the United States as the leading military power in the Western Pacific," the report found.

This assessment, which came just as Nimitz-class supercarrier USS Ronald Reagan defied China by sailing the South China Sea, was rejected by Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Senior Ren Guoqiang, who told reporters Friday that "the U.S. side loves to take petty actions just before China's major holidays, but history has proved that no petty actions can affect the overall development of the Chinese military and the nation."

While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did, in fact, wish "the people of China happiness, health, peace and prosperity in the year to come" ahead of Tuesday's National Day, President Donald Trump offered a more sarcastic message Monday amid his multi-billion dollar trade dispute with Xi, tweeting: "We are winning, and we will win. They should not have broken the deal we had with them. Happy Birthday China!"

The following day, he issued a more neutral message: "Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China!"