June 16, 2011

Founding of a Republic

On October 1st, 1949, the People's Republic of China was founded. Fast forward sixty years from the days of Mao to now and a lot has changed. China is or is on its way to becoming the statistical leader in almost every measureable quality, positive or negative. A single party governs a population that has more than doubled to 1.4 billion people under its rule. There are 171 cities that have populations over one million. Now the world's second largest economy, China's growth rates have averaged around 10% every year for two decades. The confidence and pride of the Communist government in its abilities and accomplishments was on display during the spectacular parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the birth of a nation.

One Friday in September, everyone was ordered to vacate from Beijing's central business district after lunchtime. A security clampdown was in place for the practice run of the parade. Roads were cleared of any bystanders or unofficial vehicles. Armoured personnel vehicles patrolled the streets and well armed troops kept watch at each intersection. I had a train to catch that night, so I had to go to Beijing Railway Station eight hours in advance. It was jam packed by the time I arrived, with the overflow having set up camp in the square in front. The square provided a perfect vantage point to see the trial run of the parade.

My invitation to see the actual parade was lost in the mail, so I was lucky to catch a dress rehearsal. A stream of 100,000 marching youth, 60 colourful floats, and tonnes of heavy weaponry completed the circuit. For the high security spectacle, many precautionary measures had been taken. Businesses and tourists sites in the general vicinity of Tiananmen Square were closed. Residents were warned not to peek out of their windows or go out onto their balconies. Commercial flights were delayed temporarily. Most importantly, knives were taken off store shelves and kites and birds were removed from the air. Without a ticket to the invite-only extravaganza, I watched the parade at home on October 1st, 2009.


"I have witnessed the tremendous energy of the masses. On this foundation it is possible to accomplish any task whatsoever." — Mao Zedong