A huge annual military parade held at the Zhurihe training base in remote Inner Mongolia was a propaganda set piece, showing off the Chinese regime’s military might to millions of viewers in China and worldwide.
Billed by the state-run CCTV as a live broadcast at noon Beijing time on July 30, video footage showed Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping dressed in army fatigues as he inspected the parade from an open-top jeep. Wave after wave of troops, tanks, armored vehicles, missiles, and aircraft passed through as the video feed captured just about everything from perfect angles and with spectacular precision.
Except the video, instead of being broadcast live as advertised, was likely pre-recorded.
Tracking data on civilian flights in the area reveals the Chinese regime’s apparent false advertising. Civilian flight activity around the Zhurihe base at the time of the parade could be observed on Flightradar24, a website that shows real-time aircraft information across the globe.
Flightradar24 and other flight-tracking websites aggregate data collected from open sources and volunteers with scanners. Civilian and commercial aircrafts are equipped with transponders that openly broadcast their location and essential flight information, and they are therefore trackable by the general public in real time.
Based on Flightradar24 data, numerous civilian commercial flights passed through the air space around or even directly above Zhurihe military training base during the time period when the parade supposedly took place.
For example, Lufthansa flight LH722, an Airbus A340-600 flight from Munich to Beijing, flew directly above Zhurihe at the exact time when CCTV was broadcasting the supposedly live footage of J-15 and J-20 fighter jets flying over the parade ground in impressive formations.
Chinese officials and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are unlikely to allow commercial flights to fly over a military parade of such magnitude, not to mention that such parades involve many formations of the PLA’s aircrafts—including fighter jets, bombers, military transports, and helicopters—flying over the parade ground.
When the parade actually took place, or at what point the CCTV recorded the footage, is unknown. The recording was likely done well in advance so as to avoid any embarrassment in the event that something should go wrong. The regime’s propaganda partially worked, however, as numerous international news media outlets reported that the parade footage was recorded live.
This would not be the first time the Chinese regime and its official media mouthpieces have faked a “live” broadcast. CCTV’s New Year’s Gala, an annual holiday program usually watched by hundreds of millions of Chinese viewers during the Chinese New Year, is noted for its practice of pre-recording segments of the gala’s performances, even though the program is billed as being broadcast live.
The annual military parade has been one of the traditions maintained by China’s communist regime to show off the strength of the PLA.
Another purpose of the parade is to demonstrate the party’s absolute dominance and control over the PLA, which by its very design swears loyalty not to the Chinese people but to the top leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.
Zhurihe is the largest training base in China, serving as PLA’s principle training and exercise ground, and is comparable to the U.S. military’s Fort Irwin National Training Center.