Beijing went all out with its 70th-anniversary bash on October 1 and numerous new assets of the People’s Liberation Army made their debut in a closely-watched military extravaganza.
The event saw a classic Hongqi (Red Flag) convertible car carrying Chinese President and PLA commander in chief Xi Jinping cruise along Chang’an Avenue, amid a rousing chorus of slogans chanted by the troops he was inspecting.
The centerpiece of the military parade, which dwarfed all previous events in scale throughout the past seven decades, was the DF-41 solid-fuelled, road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile.
Its hit range of 14,000 kilometers covers the entire conterminous United States, meaning its 10-plus thermonuclear warheads can annihilate virtually any targets there and cut a swathe across US soil within about 10 minutes of launch, cruising at Mach 25, or 30,626 kilometers per hour.
Andrew Erickson, an expert on the Chinese military at the US Naval War College, told the Wall Street Journal that the DF-41 was “China’s most powerful and advanced nuclear weapons system … designed and deployed with deterring the US in mind.”
Another ace in the PLA’s nuclear preemption family was also showcased on Tuesday. Also from the DF missile group is the agile DF-17, whose hypersonic glide vehicle is capable of maneuvering through the national and theater missile defense systems of the US and its allies.
Veteran military observer Antony Wong told Hong Kong’s Apple Daily that the West had to admit that their ICBMs had been given a good run for their money by the PLA’s DF family. He added that Beijing could have already shelled out far more money than openly budgeted on its military buildup in recent years, to the tune of two trillion yuan, or as much as half of the Pentagon’s annual outlay.
For the fiscal year 2019, the US Department of Defense’s budget is approximately US$693 billion.
Wong also feared that the slew of new missiles and other assets featured in the many parades and drills over the years under Xi, who is known for his penchant for military fanfare, could lead to an arms race between the world’s two largest economies.
It is especially so now that Washington is unfettered by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty – signed with the former Soviet Union in 1987 – following its exit in August.
The PLA boasts the world’s largest arsenal of intermediate-range missiles, yet the US decommissioned and eliminated its own stockpile of such missiles.
“For self-defense the Pentagon has to rev up production and deployment of ballistic missiles with comparable power and destruction to respond to the PLA’s nuclear assault capabilities against the US,” said Wong.
He also suspected that the total cost of the National Day parade, including security, compensation, deployment and allowance expenditures, could be 15 billion yuan (US$2.098 billion).