QINGDAO • China will show off new warships, including nuclear submarines and destroyers, at a parade this week marking 70 years since its navy's founding, as Beijing flexes its increasingly well-equipped military muscle.
President Xi Jinping is overseeing a sweeping plan to refurbish the People's Liberation Army (PLA) by developing everything from stealth jets to aircraft carriers as China ramps up its presence in the South China Sea and around self-ruled Taiwan.
The navy has been a key beneficiary of the modernisation plan as China looks to project power far from the country's shores and protect its trading routes and citizens overseas.
Last month, Beijing unveiled a target of 7.5 per cent rise in defence spending for this year, a slower rate than last year but still outpacing China's economic growth target.
Deputy naval commander Qiu Yanpeng told reporters in the eastern city of Qingdao that Tuesday's naval parade - likely to be overseen by President Xi himself, though China has not confirmed that - will feature 32 vessels and 39 aircraft.
"The PLA Navy ship and aircraft to be revealed are the Liaoning aircraft carrier, new types of nuclear submarines, new types of destroyers, as well as fighter aircraft," Vice-Admiral Qiu said yesterday, without giving details. "Some ships will be revealed for the first time."
The Liaoning, the country's first carrier, was bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China.
It is not clear if China's second carrier, an as-yet unnamed ship developed and built purely in China, will also take part, but in the past few days state media has run stories praising recent sea trials.
Around a dozen foreign navies are also taking part. While Vice-Adm Qiu did not give an exact number, China has announced that the parade would include ships from Russia, Singapore, India, Thailand and Vietnam - which frequently complains of Chinese military activity in the disputed South China Sea.
China's last naval battles were with the Vietnamese in the South China Sea, in 1974 and 1988, though these were relatively minor skirmishes.
Chinese navy ships have also participated in international anti-piracy patrols off Somalia's coast since late 2008.