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01/10/2009 | China Affirms its Global Ascendancy with Spectacular Sixtieth Anniversary Parade

Global Insight Staff

China has showcased its military strength during National Day celebrations, illustrating its illustrious history as well as its rise to an economic, political, and military power.

 

IHS Global Insight Perspective

 

Significance: China has staged lavish mass celebrations to commemorate 60 years since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power.

Implications: The festivities were designed to show that China is in safe hands under the leadership of the CCP, which has successfully guided the country out of the chaos of 60 years earlier while leading it towards economic prosperity and global power status.

Outlook: Although the Chinese leadership needs to tackle significant challenges—such as rising income inequality, corruption, and environmental degradation—it continues to benefit from significant public support due to its perceived competence in the economic sphere.

Vast lines of tanks, soldiers, and missile launchers passed through the streets of Beijing today as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) pulled off a successful military parade for its sixtieth anniversary celebrations. President Hu Jintao stood on the podium at Tiananmen Square—the Gate of Heavenly Peace—dressed in a Mao-style tunic to witness the spectacle. He was later joined by other senior Chinese leaders such as Premier Wen Jiabao and his predecessor Jiang Zemin. After a 60-gun salute, the Chinese flag was raised in the centre of the square, where Chairman Mao had declared the founding of the People's Republic of China six decades earlier. Following the military came 60 floats amid a parade of 100,000 Chinese citizens waving patriotic red banners.

China is Safe Under the Communist Party

While China typically stages extravagant festivities every decade in commemoration of revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, the splendour of this year's celebrations exceeded those held in the past. The proud display of nationalism was the culmination of months of government propaganda in order to fuel national pride. The extravagant celebrations were designed to send a clear message to the people that the Communist Party has been successful in leading the country towards economic prosperity and global power status. Underlining the renewed confidence, Chinese President Hu Jintao said that, "Today, a socialist China that faces the future is standing tall and firm in the East". Hu's speech was clearly directed towards a domestic Chinese audience. The stoking of Chinese patriotism through the showcasing of China's latest military technology combined with impressive dance displays was intended to illustrate that the country is safe and strong under the leadership of the party. At the same time, it was intended to shore-up much-needed public support for the Hu-Wen administration as it attempts to bolster its own legitimacy during a period of political and economic uncertainty.

Underlying Mood of Insecurity

While many Western observers have interpreted the festivities as a simple example of Chinese muscle-flexing, it should be noted that the mood of the celebrations was underpinned by enormous insecurity. Indeed, tight security measures kept the public away and ensured no unexpected incidents ruined the parade. With heavy security measures along the route, high numbers of police patrolled the area while an estimated 800,000 volunteer security officers were out in force on the streets of the Chinese capital. Ahead of the celebration, Beijing authorities also arrested more than 6,500 criminal suspects in a stringent crackdown similar to the one prior to the Beijing Olympics last year. More generally, the whole production was peppered with references to national unity and the benevolence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) towards ethnic minorities—a clear reference to recent unrest in Xinjiang province after clashes between the Han and Uighur populations led to the deaths of 197 people on 5 July. Prior to that, deadly riots also took place in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet last year leading to widespread condemnation of the Beijing administration just as it was about to host the Olympics. The use of patriotic language throughout the day highlighted the fact that the Chinese leadership is all too aware of their country's weaknesses and failures. Issues include widespread discontent over increasing socio-economic inequality, official corruption, as well as environmental degradation. Indeed, while the party has managed to lift roughly 400 million people out of poverty, the total number of people in the poor and low-income bracket remains large, while income inequality is on the rise. Feeding into the widening wealth gap has been the corruption problem, as many suffer under the tyranny of corrupt and incompetent rule by China's 45 million officials. Environmental degradation poses another serious threat to China's sustainable development as polluted waterways, land, and air threaten the health of a growing segment of the population.

Outlook and Implications

Growing Optimism

However, in spite of these problems, there remains widespread consensus among the Chinese populace that, overall, the country is heading in the right direction. Sixty years ago, China was in chaos following a protracted civil war and the devastating effects of the Japanese occupation. From the perspective of many Chinese people, one of Mao's most important achievements was to lay the foundations for agricultural and industrial development in China while ending foreign domination. Following him, Deng Xiaoping promoted a pragmatic policy strategy of "opening up" to foreign investment and globalisation—with such reforms underpinning China's current economic success. After 30 years of rapid economic growth averaging at 10% per year, Chinese optimism appears to be strong, particularly in the cities which have been the primary beneficiaries of the country's chosen economic development model. China's burgeoning middle class is a strong supporter of the 75-million strong CCP. More recently, the global financial crisis has been a catalyst for China's re-emergence as a world superpower. While many countries are still in the midst of deep recessions, the International Monetary Fund today lifted its growth forecast for China's economy this year to 8.5%, adding that it is helping to drive regional recovery. Thus, the sixtieth anniversary parade is an important milestone in China's long-term reform process, boosting public morale over China's emergence as a global economic, military, and political player. And while the Beijing government is faced with major issues, it continues to benefit from significant public support borne of renewed confidence in the CCP's ability to maintain economic growth and fulfil the nation's development goals.

Global Insight (Reino Unido)

 


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