After months of speculation, the foreign armies participating in China’s September 3 military parade were revealed during dress rehearsals on Saturday.

The identities of the participating nations had remained shrouded in secrecy since China first invited foreign armies to send contingents of 75 troops to march alongside their Chinese counterparts.

Footage from the weekend rehearsals showed contingents from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Cuba, Fiji, Serbia, Mexico, Pakistan, Laos, Cambodia, and Vanuatu marching past Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Victory Day rehearsal. Photo: CCTV.
Mongolian troops at Victory Day rehearsal. Photo: CCTV.

Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan all took part in the war as republics of the USSR.

Mongolia, then a Soviet satellite state, made significant contributions to the decisive Battle of Khalkin Gol, in which Soviet and Mongolian forces repelled Japan’s advance into Mongolia.

Cuban soldiers at Victory Day rehearsal. Photo: CCTV.
Cuban soldiers at Victory Day rehearsal. Photo: CCTV.

Cuba, then a US client state headed by President Fulgencio Batista, contributed to the Battle of the Caribbean in 1942. Batista installed himself as a dictator in 1952, and was overthrown by Fidel Castro’s Communist insurgency in 1959.

At the time of the war Fiji was not an independent nation; it was a British colony. However, thousands of Fijians signed up to fight for the Allies and were attached to New Zealand and Australian army units.

Due to their central location in the Pacific, both Fiji and neighbouring Vanuatu, then a joint British-French colony known as the New Hebrides, served as Allied bases. After France’s surrender to Nazi Germany, Vanuatu supported Charles De Gaulle’s Free France government-in-exile.

Lao contingent at Victory Day rehearsal. Photo: CCTV.
Cambodian contingent at Victory Day rehearsal. Photo: CCTV.

Following France’s defeat in 1940, Cambodia and Laos fell under the Vichy government and were subsequently absorbed into the Japanese empire, with the Vichy regime’s acquiescence.

Egyptian soldiers march in Beijing. Photo: CCTV.

Egypt was a de-facto British colony at the outbreak of the Second World War, and became the scene of intense fighting between Allied and Axis forces. After Britain successfully beat back an Italian invasion launched from Libya, Hitler sent in a German army.

Nazi Germany’s Erwin ‘the Desert Fox’ Rommel used blitzkrieg tactics to force an Allied retreat, but British commanders later turned the tide and achieved the first major victory for British Commonwealth forces over the German Army.

Afghan soldiers at Tiananmen Square. Photo: CCTV.

Afghanistan remained neutral throughout the Second World War.

Pakistan, now one of China’s staunchest allies, was still a part of British India during the war. Many soldiers from what would later become Pakistan joined the Allied war effort. The Muslim League, which advocated an independent Pakistan and would later lead the country’s first government after partition, supported Britain in the war.

Mexican troops in the Chinese capital. Photo: CCTV.

Mexico declared War on the Axis powers in 1942. The country’s raw materials fed the US war effort while the Mexican Air Force helped to liberate the Philippines.

Although Mexico’s combat role was minimal, the country’s decision to reject Axis overtures and join its neighbours to the north was a boon to the Allied war effort, denying Germany a safe harbour for U-boats and a launching pad for an attack on mainland America.

Serbia was then part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which declared for the Allies but was occupied by Axis forces from 1941 to 1944.

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Ryan Kilpatrick

Ryan Kilpatrick is a local writer, journalist and editor. Formerly National Online Editor for the That's magazine group in China, his work on the history and politics of the region has earned him the CEFC Award in Modern China Studies and has also appeared in China Economic Review, Asian Studies Review, China Green News, e-International Relations, Shanghaiist and various publications at his alma mater, the University of Hong Kong, where he is currently enrolled in the Master of Journalism programme.