Chinese President Xi Jinping hailed his nation as a major world power and force for peace Thursday as he presided over a massive military parade that for the first time marked Japan's surrender in World War II — 70 years after it happened.
Speaking from atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Beijing — the same place Mao Zedong stood to declare the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 — he told assembled crowds that his country had achieved "total victory" in 1945, leading to the "great renewal of the Chinese nation."
"This triumph re-established China as a major country in the world and won us the respect of all peace-loving people," Xi said.
Since becoming leader of China's ruling communist party in late 2012, Xi has worked to raise China's profile in the world.
"This (parade) was done from a position of power and confidence," said Steve Tsang of Nottingham University's China Policy Institute.
In the eyes of many Chinese, the event — reminiscent of a Soviet-style military parade — was a statement of recovery after 100 years of foreign intervention and occupation ended in 1945. Xi created the public holiday this year to mark the end of World War II.
Families across the country gathered to watch the display, and many took to social media to express themselves.
"We showed the world our nation's power. China will not stand to be insulted any more. This is the greatest prosperity that people have seen, and it will be better and better," said a user called Beike on Weibo, China's Twitter equivalent.