As China celebrated its victory over Japan in World War Two over 70 years ago with a massive display of military power, President Xi Jinping announced Thursday the army would reduce its troops by 300,000.
Currently, China has the world's biggest militaries with 2.3 million troops. This means that it will cut its force by 13 percent. The United States is second with about 1.4 million active military troops, while India is in third with 1.3 million.
Xi gave no timeframe for the reduction he announced, but according to Reuters, it is likely part China's plan to spend more money on high-tech weapons for the navy and air force. This would be the fourth time China cuts its military force since the 1980s.
"Prejudice and discrimination, hatred and war can only cause disaster and pain," the president said. "China will always uphold the path of peaceful development."
After his announcement, Xi descended to Beijing's main thoroughfare and inspected rows of troops, riding past them in his vehicle and repeatedly chanting: "Hello comrades, hard-working comrades!"
At least 12,000 soldiers, mostly Chinese but with contingents from Russia and elsewhere, then marched down Changan Avenue, led by veterans of World War Two carried in vehicles.
Behind the soldiers came a rally of ballistic missiles, tanks and armored vehicles, many never seen in public before. Advanced fighter jets and bombers flew overhead in a highly-choreographed spectacle that lasted around 90 minutes.
Reuters reported that among the weapons China unveiled for the first time was an anti-ship ballistic missile, the Dongfeng-21D, which is reportedly capable of destroying an aircraft carrier with one hit.
Also shown were several intercontinental ballistic missiles such as the DF-5B and the DF-31A as well as the DF-26 intermediate range ballistic missile, dubbed the "Guam killer" in reference to a U.S. Pacific Ocean base.
For President Xi, the parade was a distraction from the country's plunging stock markets, slowing economy and recent blasts at a chemical warehouse that killed at least 160 people.
Xi was joined by Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of several other nations with close ties to China, including Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
Chinese government officials emphasized repeatedly the parade was not aimed at today's Japan, but to remember the past and to remind the world of China's huge sacrifices during the conflict.
The Chinese capital was locked down to ensure nothing went wrong at the parade. A three-day holiday was also declared.