The troops marching past—12,000 were on hand—wore combat garb, not dress uniforms, and kicked up plenty of crud along the way, as did the various military vehicles.

Whether by accident or design, the plain backdrop and lack of ornamentation meshed well visually with Xi’s long-stated goal for the bloated PLA to modernize into a leaner, meaner fighting machine, one that features fewer troops and less bureaucracy but more effective weaponry. Nearly half the equipment seen yesterday was being displayed for the first time. In 2015, Xi announced a sweeping reorganization of the military that included cutting about 300,000 soldiers.

Today (July 31) state broadcaster CCTV showed footage of the parade at the top of every hour. The gritty imagery should help Xi, who added “commander in chief” to his titles in April 2016, in his bid to consolidate power ahead of a key Communist Party congress later this year.


📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.