China’s Communists Mark 60 Years in Power With Parade (Update1)

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The People’s Republic of China celebrates its 60th anniversary today by staging a military parade through the heart of Beijing to demonstrate the country’s rising global influence. Hundreds of missiles and tanks and thousands of troops from the world’s largest standing army will parade past Tiananmen -- the Gate of Heavenly Peace -- where Mao Zedong on Oct. 1, 1949, declared the Communist Party’s victory in a civil war and took the reins of government.

China now produces in a day the equivalent of a year’s output five decades ago, and is poised to surpass Japan as the world’s second-largest economy by 2010. The Communists, who lifted 300 million citizens from abject poverty and raised the country’s international influence, must now satisfy increasing demands for domestic freedom and accountability.

The celebration “is a show-off to beef up confidence in, and support to, the regime,” said Huang Jing, visiting professor at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. “Serious questions need to be asked how such a show of strength can translate into” tolerance, transparency and “inclusiveness in ethnic, cultural and religious diversity.”

The country’s rise to global prominence gives credence to Napoleon Bonaparte’s prediction two centuries ago that “China is a sickly, sleeping giant. But when she awakes the world will tremble.”

Show of Might

The People’s Liberation Army will display 52 types of new weapons including unmanned aerial vehicles and aircraft with advance warning radar, while 5,000 soldiers march their way through Tiananmen Square past the portraits of Mao and Sun Yat- Sen, Republican China’s first president after the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. Up to 200,000 people will take part in the parade, which includes a flotilla of 60 vehicles bedecked with flowers and digital displays showcasing six decades of China’s scientific, technological and economic achievements.

“The road ahead is still long and it isn’t smooth,” Premier Wen Jiabao told President Hu Jintao, Hu’s predecessor Jiang Zemin and hundreds of officials and diplomats at a banquet last night at the Great Hall of the People. “We must remain modest, cautious, not arrogant, not hot-tempered in our work.”

Sidewalk Tai Chi

As the city prepared for today’s celebrations, some Beijingers continued their morning rituals, such as tai chi exercises on the city’s sidewalks.

On Di’anmen Street, customers gathered at the Shun Tian Wang restaurant to eat vegetable-filled steamed buns at 0.5 yuan (7 cents) each. “Business is slow this morning because of the celebrations, but it will get busy later on,” said the proprietor, who would only give her surname, Wang.

South of Di’anmen Street, which bisects the inner city from east to west, police armed with machine guns blocked cars from heading toward Tiananmen Square, where thousands of people were gathering for the celebrations.

Today’s PLA parade is the 14th since the army emerged victorious in the 1949 civil war against the Kuomintang. The last was in 1999, when then-President Jiang Zemin’s Red Flag limousine drove past an honor guard marking the 50th anniversary.

Taiwan Ties

The end of the civil war sent Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai- shek and millions of Chinese fleeing to the island of Taiwan. Tensions between the two sides have eased since last year’s election of Ma Ying-jeou as Taiwan’s president, resulting in direct air and sea routes and fewer restrictions on investing in each other’s banking, insurance and securities industries.

China’s economy may surpass the U.S. by 2027, according to a projection by New York-based Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Foreign currency reserves are the world’s largest at $2.13 trillion, and the country is the biggest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury securities, with $800.5 billion at the end of July. The country’s largest lender, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., is the world’s biggest by value and its most profitable.

Economic growth and rising global influence have come at the cost of domestic expression. Opposition to Communist Party rule is banned while dissent, including the 1989 student demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, is crushed.

Clash of Interests

The government must “reassure the international community and the Asia-Pacific region in particular, that a rapidly rising China will remain peaceful and responsible to global security and prosperity,” Huang said. “Its interests are extending to every corner of the world, and these interests are not always consistent with those of the others.”

As many as 800 million Chinese, 60 percent of the population, still live in the countryside, and rapid development has left millions of them behind. Still socialist in name, China has a wider income gap than Taiwan and South Korea have now, or had during their export-led industrializations.

The gaps are made wider by the spread of corruption. Graft has reached into the senior ranks of officials, with those convicted including the former parliamentary vice chairman Cheng Kejie, Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu, and Chen Tonghai, former chairman of China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., or Sinopec, as the nation’s second-biggest oil company is known.

Even as Tiananmen Square is festooned today with 56 columns representing the country’s biggest ethnic groups, many ethnic Uighurs and Tibetans say they see China as an empire diluting their indigenous cultures and lifestyles.

Tibet, Xinjiang

The worst riots in six decades broke out in the past two years in Tibet and Xinjiang, two provinces on China’s western fringe, spurred by income gaps along ethnic and religious fissures.

The world’s most populous nation has also become the largest commodity resource consumer and one of the largest energy users. China last year passed the U.S. as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses, and widespread pollution of its atmosphere and waterways is rarely checked by public opposition.

The smog that enveloped Beijing for three days before today’s parade eased overnight after a light rainfall. Thousands of people are converging on Tiananmen Square under partly cloudy skies and a light haze.

--Michael Forsythe, Eugene Tang: Editors: John Brinsley, Ben Richardson.

To contact Bloomberg staff on this story: Michael Forsythe in Beijing +8610-6649-7580 or mforsythe@bloomberg.net