Xi Jinping inspects massive naval parade in South China Sea

Xi Jinping inspects massive naval parade in South China Sea

China's aluminium exports hit their highest in nine months in March as strong worldwide prices led the world's biggest producer to sell more overseas, despite a growing trade spat with the United States.

All combat systems of the PLA Navy and 10 air echelons joined the parade.

Holding the parade in the South China Sea was strategic move as the waters are a potential combat zone, said Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert. The Chinese government claims a huge swath of territory across the sea, overlapping with claims of the Philippines and Vietnam, among others.

In a foreshadowing of future drills, the Fujian provincial maritime authority on Thursday announced live-fire naval exercises for April 18 in the Taiwan Strait, the first Chinese naval exercise in waters off the self governing island since September 2015.

Taiwan has been self-governed since a bloody civil war ended in 1949. Chongqing, one of China's largest cities, is situated deep in the country's economic heartland and far from the political center of Beijing.

After Trump unveiled another set of planned tariffs last Friday, Xi this week struck a conciliatory note, promising to cut tariffs on cars - a key point of U.S. anger - and other imports, as well as further open up the economy.

An agreement to provide Taiwan with submarine manufacturing technology and the appointment of hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton have also hardened views among anti-American nationalists in China. China responded in kind by proposing its own tariffs.

The just-completed naval drills off Hainan underscored China's growing capabilities in defending its maritime interests and territorial claims, particularly in the disputed South China Sea.

Fears of a trade war have been rumbling since last month as President Donald Trump has threatened a series of tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods, sparking tit-for-tat warnings from Beijing.

The forum is the Chinese equivalent of the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, involving high-level talks among economic leaders.

But the export outlook is being clouded by an escalating trade dispute with the United States, which could disrupt China's shipments and its supply chains, while a cooling property market may curb China's demand for imported raw materials such as iron ore.

"The mission of building a mighty people's navy has never been more urgent than it is today", Xi said. He also said China would stick to "the path of peaceful development" going forward.

CNN's Steve George and Josh Berlinger contributed to this article.

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