But the recent parade shows that it’s wrong to assume there’s no innovation taking place. Chinese scientists are performing cutting-edge research on quantum radar, laser-based submarine detection, hand-held laser guns designed to blind or burn, and particle teleportation with applications to communications and encryption. China still lags behind in jet engine design and submarine acoustic stealth, but it’s advanced in terms of radars, jammers and digital networking.

Beyond the new items shown off in the parade, China in the last year has also fielded its first entirely home-built aircraft carrier, its first amphibious landing carrier, new carrier-based radar and jamming planes and a cutting-edge light tank for use in the Himalayas, while developing an advanced long-range stealth bomber.

The weapons systems unveiled this month include the eye-catching “Sharp Sword” stealth drone shaped like a manta ray with two internal bays that could be used to carry weapons. While Russia, the U.S. and Europe have developed stealth attack-drone prototypes, none have any that are openly operational.