China put on a mighty display of military power on Thursday in a parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War 2, an event shunned by most Western leaders but which underscored Beijing's growing confidence in its armed forces.
Xi was joined by Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of several other nations with close ties to China, including Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
Most Western leaders rebuffed invitations to attend, diplomats said, unhappy about the guest list and wary of the message China is sending to a region already rattled by its military assertiveness, especially in the South China Sea.
The parade panders to a prickly strain of nationalism in a Chinese public constantly reminded by state propaganda of China's past humiliations at the hands of foreign powers, especially Japan, which is widely despised for its perceived failure to properly atone for invading China.
While a hit at home, such sentiments heighten fears abroad about China's intended uses of its newfound power, frustrating Beijing's attempts to market itself as a responsible member of international society committed to the common good.