China to cut 300,000 troops from massive army

Against the backdrop of the largest military parade in modern China, President Xi Jinping announced a troop reduction of 300,000 and pledged peace, reports CBS News correspondent Seth Doane.

"The experience of war makes people value peace even more," Xi said.

China hosted a spectacular display of its armed forces Thursday at the parade, which celebrated the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, a war that cost tens of millions of Chinese lives.

Xi inspected some of the 12,000 troops taking part, a fraction of the 2.3 million currently serving in the People's Liberation Army. China wants to modernize and centralize its forces.

Beijing was on lockdown as the Communist Party prepared to put on the spectacular show.

It is generally very difficult to shoot video in Tiananmen Square, but on Thursday, there were bleachers and bands - an event China wants the world to see.

Defense spending has been growing by double-digits in the last five years. China has been flexing its military muscle, particularly in the South China Sea.

Defense departments around the world were paying close attention to the parade, particularly to the weapons that were included. Many had never been seen before. The ballistic missile DF-21D is one of the closely watched, as it's capable of sinking an aircraft carrier in a single strike.

In the stands, not far from President Xi, sat a U.S. Army veteran, Lt. J. Vinyard. He said he thinks he's getting a warm reception in China because "the Chinese people have long memories."

The 92-year-old had flown supplies into China, a U.S. ally, during World War II. He received a medal from President Xi this week.

"We all felt that we made a big contribution to helping China win the war - and then in addition to patting ourselves on the back - the Chinese were willing to pat us on the back too," Vinyard said.

To underscore the slightly-contradictory message of peace at this military parade, China released 70,000 doves for the finale.

China invited the world to attend, but most Western leaders stayed away as not to anger Japan. Tokyo expressed disappointment in President Xi's speech, which referenced Japan seven times in eight minutes.