Beijing: Amid the roar of tanks rolling through a residential street in central Beijing at midday, 31-year-old Li Meiping cried tears of joy.
“So handsome, so handsome … we love you, Beijing loves you,” she said, holding both thumbs up to soldiers as they waved to the crowd from behind long black guns anchored to each tank.
As China’s National Day military parade extravaganza wound up on Tuesday, thousands of people who were unable to see the actual parade because of tight security restrictions lined the streets behind steel barricades to watch phalanxes of tanks and armoured vehicles pass on their way out of the capital.
The parade, which included some 15,000 troops, cutting-edge military hardware and a flyover by dozens of jets, is a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist Party-ruled China and is the most important event in the country’s 2019 calendar.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE?
In Beijing — where images of events like the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 30 years ago are heavily censored, and China’s wartime victories are glorified in television serials — praise for the military show seemed virtually unanimous. “In the whole world there is no other country that has a parade like this … long live China,” said Li, who came with her four-year-old daughter.
Organisers last month said 30,000 Beijing residents were selected to view the parade itself. But citizens of all ages — many carrying flags and taking pictures and videos on their smartphones — began lining the exit routes hours in advance to catch a glimpse of the imposing hardware after the parade. “I feel very thrilled,” said 12-year old student Zhang Huaiqiu. “I have experienced the power of Chinese military weaponry. My horizons have been greatly expanded.”
WHY IS THIS YEAR SO SIGNIFICANT?
This year’s parade holds special significance for President Xi Jinping, as the country looks to bolster patriotism in the face of mounting challenges at home and abroad.
While perceptions of China have tended towards the negative in Western countries over the past 18 months amid a trade war with the United States and other issues, the Communist Party and Xi remain widely popular in China. “Supporting him is supporting China. Those who don’t support him don’t have patriotic feelings,” said 47-year old Gang Meng, who came early to one of central Beijing’s old-style hutong neighbourhoods to take photos of her son in the flag-lined streets ahead of the parade.
WHAT MAKES XI JINPING SO POPULAR?
Xi’s popularity is linked to his flagship anti-corruption drive and a wider campaign to boost the country’s technological and military prowess.
For Beijing’s older residents, who remember military parades under previous leaders, Tuesday’s show seemed much more polished. Liu Shuxian, a 63-year-old university library worker, remembers seeing his first military parade in 1989, the 40th anniversary of Communist China and the same year as the Tiananmen Square protests.
“At the time, the soldiers’ outfits were not as modern as they are now, and they were very natural, they didn’t give people the feeling that they were deliberately performing. It was the result of normal training.” Liu, whose university-appointed housing fronts the street where the military procession made its exit, still keeps photos of the tanks that passed during the city’s last military parade four years ago, marking the anniversary of the end of Second World War. “It’s stunning, beyond imagination, and I’m so proud of the motherland. It’s not easy, so we must cherish it.”
Xi: China’s rise on global stage is unstoppable
President calls for stability in Hong Kong, unity among Chinese ethnic groups
President Xi Jinping presided over a grand display of China’s strength in Beijing — declaring that no force could stop the country’s rise. Speaking at the start of a grand parade marking 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic, Xi called for stability in Hong Kong, unity among Chinese ethnic groups, and the “complete unification” of the country. Xi delivered the remarks at the site where late Communist Party patriarch Mao Zedong proclaimed the nation’s founding on October 1, 1949.
Here is a snapshot of what he said:
“Today, a socialist China is standing in the east of the world and there is no force that can shake the foundation of this great nation,” Xi told a crowd of carefully vetted guests under smoggy skies in the centre of the capital. “No force can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation from forging ahead.” Xi’s rallying cry came before an hours-long pageant showcasing China’s industrial and scientific achievements, including sophisticated weaponry such as DF-17 ballistic missiles believed capable of circumventing US defence systems. The tightly choreographed proceedings sought to reinforce the strength of a party facing multiple threats, from Donald Trump’s trade war and slowing economic growth to violent unrest in one of Asia’s top financial hubs.
On Hong Kong
In his most extensive comments on Hong Kong since unrest began, Xi said the “one country, two systems” principle under which the city has been governed since its return from British rule in 1997 must be upheld. But in Hong Kong, the government cancelled a fireworks show and toned down celebrations to avoid disruption by protesters. Numerous malls and more than 20 of the city’s 91 train stations, which have become a focal point of demonstrations, were shut Tuesday to keep people from gathering there.
On Chinese unity
Xi called for the Chinese people to be more united. “China’s yesterday is already engraved in the history of mankind. China today is created by hundreds of millions of hardworking Chinese and China’s tomorrow will be even more prosperous! Long live the great People’s Republic of China! Long live the great Communist Party of China! Long live the great Chinese people!”
Xi then carried out his inspection of military troops in an open-topped Hongqi limousine. As he travelled along Changan Avenue, he greeted soldiers, “Hello, comrades!” and each formation shouted in unison, “Hello, President!”
What new Chinese missiles mean for the world
China’s military on Tuesday showed off new equipment at a parade in central Beijing to mark 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic, including hypersonic-glide missiles that experts say could be difficult for the US to counter. Here are some highlights:
• China says the parade, the country’s most important political event of the year, which featured more than 15,000 troops marching through part of Tiananmen Square as jet fighters trailing coloured smoke soared overhead, is not meant to intimidate any specific country.
• But defence experts see it as a message to the world that China’s military prowess is growing rapidly, even as it faces mounting challenges.
• China unveiled new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and showcased its advancing intercontinental and hypersonic missiles, designed to attack the aircraft carriers and bases that undergird US military strength in Asia.
• Among the weapons were the “carrier killer” Dongfeng-21D (DF-21D), designed to hit warships at sea at a range of up to 1,500km, and the DF-26 intermediate range missile, dubbed ‘Guam killer’ in reference to the US Pacific island base.
• The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) also rolled out a hypersonic missile, known as the DF-17, which theoretically can manoeuvre sharply at many times the speed of sound, making it extremely difficult to counter.
• Bringing up the rear of the ground parade were 16 upgraded launchers carrying DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles, the backbone of China’s nuclear deterrent, capable of reaching the US with multiple nuclear warheads.