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China’s 60th anniversary celebrations not for "the people"

dimanche 11 octobre 2009

Tuesday, 29 September 2009.

It’s ticket-holders only for 60th anniversary celebrations in Beijing

It is being billed, inaccurately, as the "largest celebration the country has ever witnessed" (Telegraph, UK). When China’s nominally ’communist’ regime stages grandiose celebrations of 60 years in power on Thursday, 1 October, it will have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep out "the people" in whose name it claims to rule. "It’s the People’s Parade, but you’d better stay home to watch it unless you are one of the lucky few with a ticket to the festivities at Tiananmen Square," commented the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong (25 September). Only 180,000 tickets have been issued to hand-picked guests. Ten years ago the crowd was around 500,000, and in the 1989 over a million people participated.

With 74 million party members around China it is not so difficult to pick out 180,000 worthies for the coming ticket-only festivities. Limiting attendance in Beijing’s iconic main square is just one way the ruling party wishes to keep airtight control of the anniversary to avoid embarrassing protests. Inhabitants of apartments along the city’s main east-west axis, Changan Avenue, have been told they cannot invite guests to their homes for the duration of the anniversary ceremony, or open their windows or go out onto their balconies ! The official reason given is the military parade that will feature some of China’s most technologically advanced weaponry.

Further references are made to terrorism, with the Uighur Muslims from Xinjiang cited most often as a possible threat. But it is clear the extraordinary security measures - more extensive than during last year’s Olympics - are also aimed to avert political protests, such as the unfurling of a banner, or other actions that could spoil the regime’s day. Flying objects including kites and homing pigeons have been banned within 200km of Tiananmen Square. Even normally packed shopping precincts in central Beijing are being closed ahead of the anniversary on security grounds. There were reports that Beijing’s taxis have been bugged as part of this security sweep, but this was denied by the city’s Vice-Mayor Ji Lin. "I do not believe this exists," he told the South China Morning Post.

It was on 1 October, 1949, that Mao Zedong announced the foundation of the People’s Republic of China. Speaking to a crowd almost twice the size of those being admitted to this week’s anniversary gathering, Mao declared "the Chinese have stood up". The Chinese revolution swept away feudalism and capitalism and introduced major social changes with the all-important lever of a state-owned and planned economy. Mao’s regime, based on the peasantry, was forced by mass pressure to go further than his own initial intentions and to introduce a version of Stalin’s bureaucratically-degenerated regime in the Soviet Union. This was not socialism, but Stalinism. The door was opened to industrialisation and big advances in literacy, healthcare, and public education, but rather than the masses running society democratically, all decision-making power was concentrated in a vast, privileged, one-party bureaucracy.

Mao’s successors have long distanced themselves from Stalinism in the economic sphere and increasingly embraced capitalism. Global capitalist concerns have responded in kind. Pepsi Co are among the big U.S. corporations getting in on the 60th anniversary celebrations in China. They are running TV adverts with youngsters singing into a Pepsi can : "You are always in my heart, China bless you." Not to be upstaged, MacDonald’s outlets in China are staging a promotion with meal vouchers bearing the slogans "Powerful China" and "China is on the move". If you opt for a super-size meal at the fast-food chain, you get a free Coca Cola glass with which to "toast China". Who would believe that U.S. imperialism spent six billion dollars in arming Mao’s opponent Chiang Kai-shek during the long and bloody civil war and, one year after the 1949 power shift, debated whether to drop a nuclear bomb on China.

The Chinese regime today has been shaken by a range of political and economic setbacks, from the outbreak of the most serious ethnic blood-letting in 40 years in the Western region of Xinjiang to an economic crisis that in one year has destroyed 41 million industrial jobs. Last year there were over 100,000 "mass incidents" which is the official term for street protests, riots and industrial conflicts. The regime has become increasingly dependent on extravaganzas like National Day (1 October) to shore up its support and blunt growing dissatisfaction with an outpouring of nationalism. The 66-minute long military parade, China’s first for ten years, will be the centerpiece of the anniversary festivities. "The PLA is waiting for a proper opportunity to show off its power as China has so many territorial disputes with its neighbours, and now is the best chance to do so," commented Anthony Wong Dong of the International Military Association in Macau.

The military parade will involve fewer troops than previously, around 8,000 this time, and more equipment, to underline the force’s transition towards hi-tech weaponry. It will show off around 50 new and sophisticated weapons systems never before shown in public including the J-10 jet fighter, and the latest road-mobile inter-continental ballistic missiles with a range of more than 11,000km. Defence Minister, Liang Guanglie was quoted saying the parade would "display the image of a mighty force, a civilised force, a victorious force". All this is a far cry from the "people’s army", a guerrilla force in the main, that took power in 1949. Underlining the shift towards a more professional army, land forces will have to move over to make room for naval, air, and strategic missile forces.

The central government has cancelled all provincial celebrations on 1 October, the first time this has happened, again citing security issues. Another reason was to "prevent extravagance and waste" at a time of rising unemployment. The current leaders of the world’s most populous country will be extremely relieved if they can stage this 60th anniversary celebration, boasting they are the longest-ruling party in the world, without any upsets or impromptu protests. But one TV spectacular, however well staged, will not alter the fact China’s rulers are becoming increasingly hated by large swathes of the population as the economic and political crisis deepens.

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