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Many WZ-10 and WZ-19 attack helicopters fly over Beijing on June 12, 2015. According to local media reports, the helicopters were in rehearsal for the military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images

The training will last three months, as the troops polish their marching and saluting into a goose-step precise enough to show their president.

On Sept. 3, Beijing will mount the 14th military parade in the history of modern China, as President Xi Jinping seeks to further cement the country's major-power status by marking the 70th anniversary of the Second World War's end in Asia. It will be a public display of military might that promises to show off never-before-seen weapons and, for the first time, include troops from other countries.

Plans for the parade have been made in secret. But on Tuesday, propaganda and military officials partially parted the curtains on an event they hope will bolster their argument that Beijing should be taken seriously as a long-time contributor to global security while also helping Mr. Xi secure even more power at home and shape a new identity for his country.

In a novel step, China is asking other countries to support its argument that it has played a historically important global role in fighting aggression, calling out Canada among a list of more than two dozen other nations whose "anti-fascist soldiers directly participated" in China's efforts to fight Japanese aggression in the 1930s and 1940s.

Wang Shiming, vice-minister of publicity with the Communist Party of China's Central Committee, specifically mentioned Canada's Norman Bethune as he spoke about China's desire to include foreign troops in the parade. Dr. Bethune was a physician who helped Mao Zedong's Communists during the war; Mr. Wang mentioned him to buttress his argument that fighting in Asia is a shared memory.

"Chinese people will forever remember the precious devotion of other peoples for our final victory against Japan in the war," Mr. Wang said.

It's all part of a sweeping campaign to redraw China's wartime record at home and abroad, a recently revived effort that last year saw the creation of new anti-Japanese holidays and will this year involve a calendar-jamming series of events. Television stations and websites will play anniversary content, officials will release new lists of "heroes" and "martyrs," academics will hold conferences, local governments will ring bells in memory of the fallen, and Mr. Xi will pin badges on some veterans.

The Chinese leader is attempting to cast China as an equal of the other major powers that participated in the Second World War.

"The parade is intended as a means of reconnecting China's people with their past, not as a hapless victim but as honoured victor," said Russell Moses, dean of academics and faculty at the Beijing Center for Chinese Studies.

"Beijing is out to capture the historical narrative of what the rest of the world calls the Second World War, and give Asia – and China in particular – a pre-eminent position where victory is concerned."

China's emphasis on its warring past goes beyond fanning the flames of popular anger at rival Japan. Its version of wartime history emphasizes a largely neglected contribution that has recently attracted more attention among Western historians. And while some of the facts are disputable – China says 35 million of its people died while some historians say 14 million died – there is little doubt that China did suffer greatly in its protracted battles with Japan, which lasted much longer than fighting in Europe or elsewhere.

The argument over increasingly distant history might seem a strange one, but "the memory of the war is becoming more important as time goes on in terms of shaping the modern Chinese identity," Rana Mitter, an Oxford scholar whose book Forgotten Ally documents the Second World War in China, said in an interview.

It's part of "a desire to try and create a positive identity of pride in being Chinese." The Second World War is becoming to the Chinese what it is to the United States, he added, that is the "good war."

The parade will also highlight China's increasingly modern military force, and include the unveiling of equipment that "will be shown for the first time," according to Qu Rui, deputy director of the Military Parade Leading Group.

Promises of high-tech new equipment have drawn skepticism among foreign diplomats in China.

It's not yet clear which countries would send troops to participate in the parade. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already agreed to attend. In addition to a reluctance to attend an event with Mr. Putin, Canadian officials also face the complication that the parade falls close to an expected fall federal election.

The Canadian government did not have an immediate response when asked whether Canada will send troops to participate in the parade.

In the past, Chinese leaders have held military parades at major anniversaries of the founding of Communist China. Mr. Xi is "breaking the common practice" in part for political reasons, said Zhang Lifan, a scholar of Chinese history and prominent government critic. Mr. Xi wants to "stress his status as the top leader," and there is potent symbolism in having both his own military, and leaders from other countries, come before him, Mr. Zhang said.

With a report from Steven Chase in Ottawa

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