China will be sure to unveil its latest offerings of military technology in Thursday’s WW2 victory parade, but there are rumors that president Xi Jinping may announce a dramatic modernization plan for the Chinese military. The move would follow in the wake of dramatic increases in military spending over recent decades.
Xi may choose his final plan from among several proposals, but it is strongly suspected that it will include a shift away from an army-dominant structure, towards one in which the navy and air force share equal power to the army. Leadership spots in the Central Military Commission that are currently dominated by army generals, would be rebalanced to have more representation from the navy and air force.
Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has been one of the cornerstones of his policy, and it has extended to the military, with two vice-chairmen of the CMC having been removed in the past two years. Sources say that his original intent was to pursue the corruption in the military prior to attempting any organizational reforms.
The integration of the country’s naval forces is the most pressing issue, as it continues its territorial claims to waterways that have previously been claimed by its neighboring countries: the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia. China has an extensive fleet of naval vessels to back up its claims to the area, but the current structure of the military is heavily compartmentalized with a lack of networking between the different service branches.
The U.S. has recognized China’s South China Sea shift, but has been fairly passive in its responses to the territorial disputes. The region is home to a majority of the world’s shipping lanes and may also hold a wealth of oil and natural gas deposits.
As Xi enjoys a morale boost following the V-day parade, he may be able to redirect the country’s attention away from its faltering economy towards the rising power of its military.