People participate in a mass pageant to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1 (XINHUA)
"My country and I are so intertwined that we can't be separated for a moment." This was a line from the song My Motherland and Me heard often during the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC), expressing the prevailing national mood of pride and joy.
When Mao Zedong declared the birth of the PRC to the world from Tiananmen Square on October 1, 1949, it was a signal that the Chinese people had stood up from the poverty, weakness and humiliation they had suffered for more than 100 years and the journey to national rejuvenation had begun.
Seventy years later, when President Xi Jinping stood in the same place on the same day and emphasized that no force can undermine China's status or stop the Chinese people and nation from marching forward, there was thunderous applause, both from the tens of thousands of people at the ceremony and the hundreds of millions more watching the live broadcast from different places.
"I couldn't help but cry when I heard these sentences," a popular blogger known as Naodong wrote on Chinese social media platform Weibo.
The post triggered a flood of responses. "I am so proud and cannot hold back my tears," wrote a netizen. "What a coincidence! I cried, too!" said another. "It is so touching! Happy 70th anniversary, my country," responded yet another.
President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at a grand rally in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1 (XINHUA)
Source of confidence
According to Zhong Jun, a professor with the Chinese History Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Chinese people feel proud because today's China is strong enough to defend itself against external threats and keep moving forward despite foreign pressures. "This pride is based on the achievements we have made over the past seven decades," Zhong said.
While 70 years are but a fleeting moment in human history, they ushered in epoch-making changes in China and for the Chinese people. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China's GDP surged from $30 billion to $13.61 trillion from 1952 to 2018. Today China is the second largest economy and the largest trader in goods. The average life expectancy has risen from 35 to 77 years.
High technology is an important barometer of a country's comprehensive strength. "When the PRC was founded, China's science and technology development was at least 100 years behind Western developed countries," said Wu Mingyu, a former technology policymaker. But today, China is a leader in technology. The floats during this year's mass pageant in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1 displayed some of its hi-tech innovations, such as models of Fuxing, the world's fastest bullet train, FAST, the largest radio telescope, and Tiangong-1, the first domestic space lab launched in 2011.
Veterans participate in a mass pageant celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing on October 1 (XINHUA)
Cheng Shuyu was a participant in the mass pageant on October 1. She came to represent her father, Cheng Kaijia, holding the senior Cheng's portrait aloft while sitting on a parade bus which slowly drove through the square, receiving tributes from the crowd.
Nuclear physicist and engineer Cheng Kaijia was one of the founding fathers of China's nuclear arms development for deterrence. He left his work in the UK, returned to China and dedicated his life to the Two Bombs, One Satellite project in the early period of the PRC. Two bombs refer to the atom bomb and the intercontinental ballistic missile, while one satellite refers to developing artificial satellites. Cheng Kaijia made substantial contributions to safeguarding the PRC's security.
Along with Cheng Kaijia, the founding fathers of the PRC, war veterans and other scientists who made remarkable contributions were also honored during the celebration. They included the first premier of the PRC, Zhou Enlai, and the first minister of health, Li Dequan, who was the wife of Feng Yuxiang, a military hero in the fight against the Japanese invasion.
Remembering and saluting national heroes was an important part of the mass pageant. Xi started his address remembering the country's revolutionary forefathers and martyrs for their feats in pursuing national independence and liberation, a stronger and more prosperous country and the people's well-being.
In the 1840s, China descended into chaos due to foreign invasions and internal conflicts. But after struggles by generations, the subjugation by Western powers was ended, Japanese aggression defeated, and the PRC was established in 1949.
From the dire poverty back then to becoming the second largest economy today with sufficient military strength to defend its territory, China has completed an arduous journey spurred by the dedication and contribution of many, whose sacrifice and contribution has never been forgotten.
On September 29, Xi presented national medals and honorary titles, the highest state honors, to 36 Chinese and six foreign individuals to acknowledge their contributions to the country's growth.
"Heroes and role models once again demonstrate with their actions that greatness comes out of the ordinary," Xi said, adding that every ordinary person can have an extraordinary life and every ordinary job can produce extraordinary achievements.
It is important to acknowledge heroes; when people respect and acknowledge them, more heroes will emerge, Zhong said. "People are the real heroes as it is they who make history. They are the heroes of the past seven decades. With China now embarked on high-quality development, it is particularly necessary to have role models, especially in ordinary jobs."
The mass pageant also had representatives from workers, farmers, students, delivery personnel and the elderly women who take part in square dancing, community dancing in public places.
A mass pageant celebrates the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing on October 1 (XINHUA)
Path of peace
"China's yesterday has been inscribed in human history while today's China is being created by the hands of hundreds of millions of Chinese people," Xi said. "China will surely have an even brighter future." He called on people from all walks of life to unite, stay true to the founding mission, build on existing achievements and continue to develop the people's republic.
Against the backdrop of a complicated international situation and a challenging internal economic landscape, Xi pledged that China will stay on the path of peaceful development and pursue a mutually beneficial strategy of opening up.
A special infantry formation appeared during the military parade on October 1, wearing blue berets and camouflage uniforms, Chinese UN peacekeepers marched in the parade for the first time. As the second largest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping operations with the largest number of peacekeeping military personnel, China has made substantial contributions to global peace.
"China has always advocated peace and harmony. It has never invaded or bullied other countries in the past and has pledged not to do so in the future," Zhong said. "China is committed to peaceful development by jointly pursuing a community with a shared future for humanity."
"The military parade on October 1 showed that China has become more transparent and open about its military development," said Ruan Zongze, a researcher on international relations with the China Institute of International Studies. "China pursues a defensive policy and has committed not to use nuclear weapons first," he added.
Zhang Junshe, a senior captain with the Naval Research Academy of the People's Liberation Army Navy, said that China's military follows its own pace and concentrates on its duty.
The work of the Chinese military has demonstrated its peaceful focus. "In recent years, it has participated in escorting ships in the Aden Gulf and in the evacuation of overseas Chinese in Yemen. It contributes positive energy to the promotion of world peace and stability," he said.