QINGDAO -- Two nuclear-powered submarines making their public debut Thursday led a spectacular parade of a Chinese navy fleet, which also included 23 vessels, in an unprecedented demonstration of the country's maritime might.
The parade, followed by an international fleet review in which 21 vessels from 14 countries participated, was the climax of a four-day celebration marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy.
The foreign vessels, including US destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the Russian cruiser CG-011 Varyag, lined up in the order of combat ships, landing craft, auxiliary ships and a training vessel.
President Hu Jintao reviewed the warships from onboard the PLA Navy destroyer Shijiazhuang in waters off the mist-shrouded port city of Qingdao as 31 naval aircraft flew past overhead.
More than 200 military officers from foreign embassies also observed the fleet review from Zhenghe, named after a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) maritime explorer 600 years ago.
Rear Admiral Yang Yi, senior military expert at the National Defense University, said the parade displayed the best of China's naval capability built up in the past six decades.
"But the parade is not just about showing China's accomplishments, it is more of a new start signaling where China needs to go in the future," he told China Daily, without elaborating.
Rear Admiral Zhang Shiying, deputy commander of the PLA Navy's North Sea Fleet, said all the Chinese vessels and aircraft that took part in the parade were indigenously designed and made by China.
Admiral Wu Shengli, the navy chief, said "the PLA Navy wants to take the opportunity of the international fleet review to enhance cooperation and exchanges with our foreign counterparts to better protect maritime safety".
Captain Thomas Mangold, naval attach at the US embassy in China, who was aboard Zhenghe, said: "The parade demonstrates the Chinese navy wants to be more open and transparent."
Colonel Patrick Sice, defense attach at the French embassy, concurred. "Inviting so many countries to the review shows that China is more willing to cooperate in the Gulf of Aden (to fight pirates) and other regions," he said.
In a meeting with heads of 29 foreign navy delegations attending the celebrations in the morning, Hu pledged that China's armed forces would never be a threat to other nations. China will always be an important force in safeguarding world peace and development, he said.
"For now and in the future, China will never seek hegemony, nor will it turn to military expansion or an arms race with other nations," he said.