On Tuesday last week, China released the guest list of foreign dignitaries that were to attend yesterday’s military extravaganza.
Most of the heads of state on that list were from former communist countries, many of which are Central Asian nations that gained their statehood after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. China’s face hinges on the number of heads of state that turned out and how much weight they all carry. Domestically, China can exercise fascism, but internationally, diplomacy is needed.
Since the purpose of staging a military parade is to intimidate other nations, leaders of Western democracies boycotted the event; a slap in Beijing’s face.
If the US had approved of Beijing’s saber rattling, China would be invincible. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is already set to visit the US later this month. Would it really be necessary for Xi and US President Barack Obama to meet twice within a month? Despite that, some Chinese media outlets still fueled rumors that Obama would appear at the military parade. After this was confirmed to be false, the Global Times, a tabloid owned by the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, ran a disgruntled commentary.
Yesterday’s parade was a public humiliation to Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not attend, although some Japanese media outlets said in July that he might. That was just a tactic to trick other nations into attending, as many Japanese media are pro-China and willing to play the role of a mouthpiece that overlooks China’s vices and speaks highly of its virtues. This is also why young Japanese are opposed to the passage of Japan’s new security bill in the face of Beijing’s threats.
Another person whose attendance was long debated was South Korean President Park Geun-hye. When the Korean War broke out, China invaded South Korea. If the UN force led by the US had not intervened, South Korea would probably not exist today. However, Park could not resist the Chinese lure and she attended the parade despite US opposition. South Korea’s nationalism is a bit strange: There is a stronger anti-Japanese sentiment than in China, but there are also those who have grievances against the US, its protector.
Instead, North Korea was making waves. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was not invited, apparently because Beijing did not want to embarrass Western countries. After Western leaders turned down their invitations, some thought there was still a chance that Kim would attend, but he apparently had more guts than former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) and not only refused to attend the parade, but managed to capitalize on his decision.
On Aug. 20, North Korean troops fired shells at the South and demanded that Seoul cease its propaganda broadcasts. The next day, Kim announced that North Korea was in a semi-state of war and the rest of the world once again thought he had lost his mind.
In fact, this happened around the time that China was pursuing Park to attend its parade. A scene in which Park and Kim both showed up in Tiananmen Square would have been very weird.
With the Korean Peninsula on the verge of war, Beijing had to intervene to defuse the stand-off. Kim must have been given a lot of concessions to agree to stop the saber-rattling, as the absence of Park in the Chinese extravaganza would have done a lot of harm to China’s political interests.
Will the parade have helped Xi’s Chinese dream come true? It is pretty safe to assume that China’s internal and external crises will not be resolved by conducting a military parade, and it probably only made things worse.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Ethan Zhan
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