China: 70th anniversary celebrations spark joy and rage
The Chinese Communist Party rolled out the big guns in Tiananmen Square this week to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic, said Kirsty Needham in The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). Helicopters and stealth fighter jets roared over Beijing as 15,000 soldiers marched alongside an unprecedented display of weaponry. The parade included columns of tanks, hypersonic missiles, and the new DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are capable of striking the U.S. within 30 minutes. There was also a spectacular mass pageant involving 100,000 people and 70 floats arranged in intricate formations to represent Chinese history and iconography. Marchers bore giant portraits of past Communist leaders, including Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, as well as current President Xi Jinping. It was “the only TV show” on air, and the cameras zoomed in on a float celebrating Beijing’s rule over Hong Kong even as “violent protests continue to rage” in the semi-autonomous city.
China has every right to be proud of its “brilliant achievements,” said Zhang Shuhua in the Global Times (China). When the Communist Party took power in 1949, China was emerging from war and colonialism and “wallowing in poverty and bleakness.” A mere seven decades later, China is the world’s second-largest economy, having “completed an industrialization process that developed countries took hundreds of years to achieve.” Our annual gross domestic product has increased by a factor of 1,325 to reach $12.66 trillion, and the economy is still growing at more than 6 percent a year—triple the U.S. rate. China has “served as the global growth engine and stabilizer, which is a blessing for both Chinese people and human history.” Our unified political system has made these advances possible, freeing our people from partisan struggles so they can accomplish major goals. Our approach “can be learned by other countries, especially developing ones.”
But can this economic progress continue? asked Orange Wang and Sidney Leng in the South China Morning Post. The advantages that fueled China’s boom—a large and youthful labor force, rapid urbanization, massive infrastructure investment, market liberalization, and globalization—have all “either diminished or disappeared,” notes U.S.-based political scientist Pei Minxin. The population is aging rapidly, just as China is reaching the “middle income” phase of development that often stymies further growth. And while China is a manufacturing superpower, in consumption and services it still has “significant room to grow to catch up with rich countries.”
For Hong Kongers, who have held 17 straight weekends of protests for more democracy, the national holiday was a day of mourning, said the Hong Kong Free Press (China). The activists held their own march, and thousands of protesters fought running battles with police. An 18-year-old schoolboy who wielded a metal bar at an officer was shot in the chest—the first time a demonstrator has been hit by live fire since protests began. “There is no National Day celebration,” demonstrators shouted, “only a national tragedy!” ■