The year 1999 was at the turn of the 21st century, so the military parade on the National Day of that year was known as the Chinese army's trans-century parade. At 10:00am on October 1, accompanied by the Commander of Beijing Military Area Command Li Xinliang, the then-Chairman of the Central Military Commission Jiang Zemin reviewed the troops. When the march-past began, 17 divisions of soldiers on foot and 25 mechanized divisions who were escorted by guards of honor from the Army, Navy and Air force crossed Tiananmen Square following the loud singing. This parade lasted for more than one hour, and showed the following three characteristics:
Various branches of the armed forces from all the three services participated in the parade, reflecting the high degree of integration of various branches of arms and services in the PLA. The reviewed troops were formed by various branches of arms from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Second Artillery Force, Armed Police and armed forces stationed in the local areas, and they represented all the components of China's armed forces. Of the 42 ground divisions, the number of infantry divisions was reduced to two, while high-tech branches such as the armored forces and artillery accounted for 70 percent. The number of airborne echelons participating in the parade was increased to 10. The change in the composition of the reviewed troops marked the optimization of the PLA armed forces structure. The aircraft of the aviation corps had developed from one single type to various types including fighters, bombers, attack aircrafts and refueling aircrafts. The corps already possessed double-striking and deterring capacities with a complete set of long distance forces, medium distance forces and short distance forces. The navy had established five branches with combat vessels increasing 30 fold compared to that in the beginning of New China. This meant that the high-tech branches had become the PLA's primary forces. Forces including the Army aviation corps, marine corps, special armed police forces and reserve forces established in the new period of reform and opening-up appeared among the reviewed troops for the first time. There were newly-added branches and new types of units for the parade, fully reflecting the characteristics of the PLA's integrated branches and joint services.
The weapons and equipment were scientifically and technologically advanced. Of the 42 types of large equipment reviewed, over 95 percent were of a new style and most of them were independently developed and manufactured in China. Some types were of an internationally-advanced level, fully reflecting the new achievements accomplished in the PLA's modernization and indicating that high-tech weapons and equipment were beginning to become the main battle weapons of the PLA. Most of the new-style equipment, including the new types of main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, self-propelled guns, self-propelled anti-craft guns, heavy antitank missiles and air defense missiles as well as the new types of strategic surface-to-surface missiles, appeared in this National Day military parade for the first time. This parade had the highest number of aircraft participating of all the National Day military parades. There were nine aircraft series and 15 aircraft types; 132 aircraft in total flew over the Tiananmen area. The reviewed weapons and equipment were from all levels including strategic, tactical and operational levels, indicating that the PLA already had a sound and modern joint operation capacity. The formation of refueling aircraft which appeared among the flight echelons showed that the PLA had remote supporting operation and remote mobile operation capacities. The tank division, armored vehicle division, self-propelled gun division and wheeled towed artillery division reflected the great improvement in the ground fire mobility level. The development of vehicle-mounted mobile strategic missiles enhanced the remote mobile operation capacity of the PLA, eradicating the fixed silo missiles which were passive and vulnerable to attack. The airborne force division embodied the rapid improvement of the PLA's joint operation and mobility capacities. The ship-to-air missiles used by the navy and the anti-craft missiles used by the air force showed that the PLA had formed an in-depth anti-craft combat capability for long, medium and short distances as well as at high, medium and low altitudes. They would be the main combat weapons for future joint anti-craft operations. The weapons and equipment showed to the international community that the PLA had already had the comprehensive joint operational capacity by land, sea and air, and the PLA can wipe out any enemy.
The scale was large and the scene was magnificent; all troops participating in the parade were elite troops. Such scale and array were unprecedented in New China's history, and were also rarely seen in the world. Over 11,000 officers and soldiers and a giant array formed by over 400 fighting vehicles stretched as long as two kilometers. The "iron army", one division from Jinan Military Area Command, drove new-style wheeled infantry fighting vehicles. This army's predecessor was the famous "Yeting independent regiment" of the Northern Expeditionary Army, which was the first armed force led by the CPC. The "combat hero battalion" was equipped with a new type of self-propelled anti-craft guns; the battalion's predecessor was the famous "first company of the Red Army", the guard company of the second regiment of the first division under the first army of the Red Army. Mao Zedong carried out experiments to "establish branches of the CPC at the level of companies" in this famous company during the Sanwan Reorganization, and the CPC accumulated experience in building a new type of PLA under the leadership of the CPC. The unit driving advanced antitank missile vehicles from Nanjing Military Area Command was a Red Army troop created during the Huangma Uprising. The "Red Army Regiment" driving caterpillar infantry fighting vehicles was a troop created during the Pingjiang Uprising. There were also other hero groups including "the regiment being awarded great merit citation in the Huai-Hai Campaign", "the company being awarded top-grade merit citation in the Battle of Triangle Hill", "Huang Jiguang squad", "Dong Cunrui squad", "Wang Jie squad" and "Wang Hai Unit"; as well as merit troops like those with Zhang Side and Qiu Shaoyun as soldiers, "the hero battalion" which shot down US-made U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, and a bomber aviation division of the PLA air force which successfully completed the experiment of dropping an atomic bomb for the first time.
The grand trans-century military parade created multiple new records:
It had the most army branches of the 13 National Day military parades in the history of New China
The 25-soldier rows of the reviewed divisions set a world record
The armed forces line-up, comprising over 100 fighting vehicles from tank, infantry fighting vehicle and armored vehicle divisions, was the largest of all the military parades in the history of New China.
With its four missile divisions formed by the conventional surface-to-surface missiles, medium-range surface-to-surface nuclear missiles and long-range surface-to-surface nuclear missiles from the strategic missile troops, this parade had more Second Artillery Force missiles than any other National Day military parade in the history of New China.
At this parade, the 25 vehicle divisions comprised over 400 Army, Navy, Air force, and Second Artillery Force vehicles. Both the number of divisions and the number of vehicles set new records in the history of the New China National Day military parades.
Outlook on the National Day military parade in a new stage and a new century: concentrated display of the achievements of the military reforms with Chinese characteristics
In a new stage and a new century, facing the overall situation of national security and development strategies, Chairman of the Central Military Commission Hu Jintao explicitly requires overall planning for economic and national defense construction and the unification of building a prosperous nation and strengthening the army in the process of constructing an all-round well-off society. He emphasized the implementation of military strategic principles in the new era, and the acceleration of military reforms with Chinese characteristics. He also put emphasis on good preparation for military struggles and enhancement of the army's ability to cope with multiple security threats and complete diversified military tasks, so as to firmly safeguard the state sovereignty, security and territorial integrity as well as contribute to the preservation of world peace. Efforts should be made to strengthen the army through science and technology and, in accordance with the strategic goal of building an informationized army and winning information wars, speed up the combined development of mechanization and informatization. Efforts should also be made to actively carry out military training based on informatization, accelerate the training of a large number of high-quality military personnel of a new type and practically change the generation mode of fighting capacity. The people's army has, with a focus on the historic mission in a new stage and in a new century, thoroughly practiced the theory of Scientific Outlook on Development and steadily promoted military reforms with Chinese characteristics and preparations for military conflict. The drive for modernization of national defense has accomplished historic achievements. With the theme of presenting national prestige and military spirits, invigorating the national spirit and inspiring patriotism, the National Day military parade on the 60th anniversary of the founding of New China will fully display the tremendous achievements of military reforms with Chinese characteristics, reflect the army's military strength to safeguard world peace and regional stability and show the good spirit of the PLA. The Central Military Commission clearly required the PLA to display the aspiring face by showing first-class organization and leadership, weapons and equipment, as well as training achievement and good spirit.
According to the PLA General Headquarters, the National Day military parade this year will be a grand ceremony, which is relatively difficult to organize and implement, and will involve more aspects and display more diversified equipment. The parade will be attended by more comprehensive army branches and units. It will be a solemn review of the elite armed forces with Chinese characteristics by displaying more reviewed military formations, weapons and equipment. The participating forces will be selected from related large units and units directly under the General Headquarters. Major branches and specialized units of the Army will be involved, and the Navy, the Air Force and the Second Artillery Force will display some new-style weapons and equipment. To show the comprehensiveness of China's armed forces, a division formed by armed police equipment will be reviewed and a few divisions formed by militia and reserve forces will also be arranged. Compared to previous military parades, this parade could be unprecedented in terms of its scale, and the amount of equipment and army branches to be reviewed. Tasks including personnel selection and organization, parade training as well as supporting and security work are arduous. Therefore, this National Day military parade will certainly be a significant gift presented by the PLA to the People's Republic of China on her 60th birthday.
(Source: CCTV June 17, 2009)