China’s 60th anniversary celebrations begin

BEIJING: China’s capital began to celebrate the country’s ascendance with a show of goose-stepping troops, gaudy floats and nuclear-capable missiles on Thursday, 60 years after Mao Zedong proclaimed its embrace of communism.

Thousands of police and troops cleared central Beijing of all passers-by before the anniversary parade for the birth of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949.

Tiananmen Square has become a high-tech stage to display the ruling Communist Party’s achievements before invited guests.

Troops started celebrations by firing cannons, marching down red carpet on the Square and raising the red national flag, watched on by President Hu Jintao wearing a slate grey “Mao” suit, who stood with other Communist Party leaders on the “Gate of Heavenly Peace.”

Hu then descended and began to inspect rows of soldiers and tanks, riding past them in a black limousine and saying repeatedly, “Hello comrades, hard-working comrades!”

The parade of 8,000 picture-perfect soldiers, tanks and missiles, 60 elaborate floats, and 100,000 well-drilled civilians will be a proud moment for many Chinese citizens, watching the spectacle across the country on television.

China’s “newest model of intercontinental nuclear-capable missiles” will be on show.

President Hu Jintao also wants the day of extraordinary spectacle and security to make the case that its formula of one-party rule and rapid growth remains the right one for hauling the world’s third-biggest economy into prosperity, ruling 1.3 billion people and elevating China into a superpower.

The soldiers goose-stepping past Tiananmen Square at exactly 116 steps a minute will carry the message that this Party knows how to run a show — and a huge, restive country.

“From desperate poverty to the world’s third biggest economy, from not having enough to eat and wear to general prosperity … China has never been as strong,” said an editorial in the official People’s Daily.

Before the parade, the displays were trundled into place on the eastern edge of central Beijing.

They included a farm produce float with two model cows; one showing China’s space programme with a lunar orbiter; and a Beijing Olympic Games display including a model of the Bird’s Nest stadium.

Officials have swaddled the event in thick security, making it impossible for ordinary Beijing residents to see the parade directly.

They have been told to stay home and watch the television, and even those living on the parade route are banned from peeking out their windows.

Flights into Beijing will stop during the parade and even kites and pet pigeons have been grounded.

“The credit for 60 years of brilliant achievements goes to the Chinese people and the great Chinese Communist Party, “Premier Wen Jiabao told an anniversary reception late on Wednesday.

“We must unwaveringly protect social stability,” Premier Wen told the officials and leaders gathered in the echoing Great Hall of the People, the parliament building next to Tiananmen Square.

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