Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said on Thursday that China will build its military into a world-class force to better defend the country.
"We must accelerate the modernization of national defense and the armed forces. A strong country must have a strong military, as only then can it guarantee the security of the nation," Xi, who is also Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said at a grand gathering on Thursday in Beijing to celebrate the CPC's centenary.
"On the journey ahead, we must fully implement the Party's thinking on strengthening the military in the new era as well as our military strategy for the new era, maintain the Party's absolute leadership over the people's armed forces, and follow a Chinese path to military development," he said.
The Party will strive to make the People's Liberation Army a top military in the world so that it will have greater capability and more reliable means to protect China's national sovereignty, security and development interests, according to Xi.
He stressed that the Chinese military is a strong pillar for safeguarding the socialist country and preserving national dignity, and a powerful force for maintaining regional and world peace.
At the beginning of the ceremony, 71 aircraft from the PLA flew over Tian'anmen Square to pay tribute to the Party.
The air parade was the first time that the Chinese military's hardware took part in an event celebrating the Party's anniversary.
As many as 15 J-20 stealth fighter jets were in the parade, staging the largest-ever public display of fifth-generation combat aircraft.
All the aircraft involved in the event were developed and built by Aviation Industry Corp of China, the country's leading aircraft manufacturer.
The fleet was led by a Z-8L multirole helicopter, the latest in China's military helicopter family. Escorted by two Z-10 attack helicopters, the Z-8L carried a Party flag under its fuselage.
Another four Z-8Ls followed and carried banners with slogans saluting the Party, the People's Republic and the Chinese people.
The second group consisted of 29 Z-10 and Z-19 attack helicopters, forming the number 100 to pay tribute to the Party's centenary.
It was followed by another group of 10 J-10 lightweight multirole fighter jets that formed the number 71, a reference to July 1, the date on which the Party was founded.
Following the numeral-shaped groups, 15 J-20 fighter jets, divided into three spearhead-shaped teams, thundered over the square.
One of the world's most powerful fighter jets, the J-20 had its maiden flight in January 2011 in Chengdu.
The plane was officially declassified in November 2016 and commissioned to the PLA Air Force later that year, becoming the third stealth fighter jet in the world to enter service following the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II of the United States.
Currently, several elite units of the PLA Air Force use the aircraft.
The final aircraft to appear in the air performance were 10 JL-8 trainer planes, which also flew in a spearhead formation and made the world's longest colored-vapor trail.
Fu Qianshao, a retired researcher of the PLA Air Force, said the fact that all of the aircraft in the air parade were domestically developed with world-class technology demonstrates the huge development of China's aviation industry over the past years.
He said the military aviators involved in the performance showed their outstanding skills and collaboration by expertly piloting so many aircraft in complex formations.
"It is never an easy job for a lot of fast aircraft to fly in perfect synchronization and formation," he said. "It requires special techniques, familiarity with their equipment and long-term training."
Referring to the appearance of the large group of J-20s, he said this means that the cutting-edge fighter jet has been extensively deployed and has become the pillar of the PLA Air Force's combat aircraft forces.
Wang Yanan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said Thursday's parade marked the public debut of the Z-8L helicopter.
The latest variant of the Z-8 family, the model features an improved aerodynamic design, a wider body and faster speed, as well as a stronger carrying capacity, he said, adding that it is likely to be designed for the PLA Ground Force's air assault units to transport their airborne assault vehicles.
Wu Peixin, an aviation industry observer in Beijing, said he and many of his friends who are also fans of Chinese military hardware were excited to see the advanced fighter jets and helicopters at the event.
"The PLA and the Chinese aviation industry were built by the Party, so sending our top aircraft to join the celebration was a perfect gift to the Party. They showed to the people and the world the strength and accomplishments of our air force and aviation industry," he said.