China turns 70 tomorrow.
October 1st, National Day, officially commemorates Mao Zedong’s founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Impressive firework displays will be staged in many major cities across the country. In Beijing, the capital, there will be a huge parade replete with 580 pieces of military hardware, 15,000 goose-stepping soldiers, and 160 aircraft.
President Xi Jinping will address the country from Tiananmen Square where Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China seven decades earlier. All of this pomp and circumstance will be beamed to televisions in all corners of the country
Although Xi as lifetime leader of the Communist Party has almost absolute control over the country’s 1.3 billion people, he faces new challenges to his authority as the domestic economy slows and a trade war with the US is unresolved. Added to these internal issues are the 4 months of mass protests that began in July in Hong Kong and are expected to escalate tomorrow as Hong Kong residents plan to demonstrate against China’s influence in the city.
On the Mainland, state propaganda has managed to convince the majority of the country’s population that the United States and a handful of thugs are behind the demonstrations. This is despite the fact that up to two million Hong Kong residents have been marching in the streets.
Determined to ensure that the anniversary goes off without a hitch, the Chinese government has heightened levels of security around the country – especially restricting access to Tiananmen Square. Strict media and internet censorship includes turning off virtual networks that allow access to international websites.
There is no question that Communist China has enjoyed an amazing economic transformation in the past 70 years. Over 300 million people are now solidly in the middle class. There are even a rising number of billionaires. Much of the country’s infrastructure rivals and even surpasses the most modern Western cities.
In the long term, it will be interesting to see how China’s leaders are able to balance the one party rule with growing economic freedom.
In the short-term, let’s hope tomorrow is free of violence