QINGDAO • China showed off the first of its new generation of guided missile destroyers yesterday as President Xi Jinping reviewed a major naval parade through mist and rain to mark 70 years since the founding of China's navy.
Mr Xi 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 disputed South China Sea and around self-ruled Taiwan, which have rattled nerves around the region and in Washington.
The PLA Navy has been a key beneficiary of the modernisation plan, with China looking to project power far from the country's shores and protect its trading routes and citizens overseas.
After boarding the destroyer Xining, which was commissioned two years ago, Mr Xi watched as a flotilla of Chinese and foreign ships sailed past in waters off the eastern port city of Qingdao.
"Salute to you, comrades. Comrades, thanks for your hard work," Mr Xi called out to the officers standing on deck as the ships sailed past, in images carried on state television. "Hail to you, chairman," they replied. "Serve the people."
China's first domestically produced aircraft carrier, which is still unnamed and undergoing sea trials, was not present, though the carrier the Liaoning was, the report said.
The Liaoning, the country's first carrier, was bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China.
State television also showed pictures of the Nanchang at the review, the first of a new fleet of 10,000-tonne destroyers, though details of that and other ships were hard to determine from the footage, due to the intermittent thick mist and rain.
China's last major naval parade was last year in the South China Sea, also overseen by Mr Xi.
Yesterday's parade featured 32 Chinese vessels and 39 aircraft, as well as warships from 13 foreign countries including India, Japan, Vietnam and Australia.
A total of 61 countries have sent delegations to the event.
Meanwhile, Singapore's Ministry of Defence in a statement yesterday said the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN)'s Formidable-class Frigate RSS Stalwart had joined the other ships and aircraft in the PLA Navy's celebrations.
"RSS Stalwart was part of the sail past reviewed by People's Republic of China President Xi Jinping earlier today," the statement said.
Singapore's Chief of Navy Rear-Admiral Lew Chuen Hong and other senior RSN officers were also present at the International Fleet Review (IFR).
Following the IFR, RSS Stalwart will participate in the South-east Asia-China Maritime Exercise 2019 on Friday, held in the waters off Qingdao.