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Page last updated at 08:37 GMT, Thursday, 23 April 2009 09:37 UK

China puts naval might on display

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Qingdao

A Chinese navy soldier guards a warship at Qingdao port

China is staging a military parade to celebrate its navy's 60th anniversary - and show the world its latest warships.

At least one of the country's nuclear-powered submarines is on display at the naval parade, being held in the port city of Qingdao.

Twenty-one foreign naval vessels from 14 countries are also taking part, including the US, France and Russia.

Military analysts say the event will allow the rest of the world to see how China has developed its naval forces.

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China shows naval power at parade

Chinese sailors laid out a red carpet in front of the Chinese destroyer Shijiazhuang that took the country's president, Hu Jintao, out to sea for the parade.

"Both now and in the future, no matter to what extent we develop, China will never seek hegemony," state media quoted him as saying.

A total of 25 ships and 31 aircraft from the People's Liberation Army Navy were involved in the event.

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Joining President Hu on the destroyer were military officials from nearly 30 countries - many of whom had the chance to tour a Chinese submarine, a destroyer and a hospital ship.

Flag Lieutenant Ollie Hucker, of Britain's Royal Navy, said he was impressed with what he had seen.

"In some ways we are jealous of their capabilities," he said, adding that it was clear that China wanted to become a major naval power.

"The global high seas are somewhere they need to make sure they can protect. The sea is where most of the trade routes are," he said.

Military-to-military relations

Ordinary people also attended the parade, despite the biting wind in Qingdao.

Spectator Shi Huijuan
This is the first time the country has put on such a big parade so I really wanted to come and see it
Shi Huijuan

Carrying binoculars, they lined the city's waterfront from early in the morning to get a glimpse of the parade, most of which took place at sea out of view.

Some said they were proud to see that China now had advanced warships to match the country's growing global importance.

Shi Huijuan came from Shanghai to see the parade. "This is the first time the country has put on such a big parade so I really wanted to come and see it," she said.

China appears to have become more assertive in the waters off its coastline over recent years.

Earlier this year, five Chinese vessels were involved in a stand-off with a survey ship from the US navy off China's Hainan Island.

But the diplomatic row that followed did not stop the US from sending two ships to take part in the Qingdao parade.

"Our goal has always been to maintain and develop military-to-military relations," said a US Embassy spokesman in Beijing.



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