Thursday, 3 September 2015

A Mighty Fine Temporary Distraction

Some 12,000 soldiers showing off their practiced moves in Tiananmen Square
When I lived in Beijing several years ago, we never marked September 3, the anniversary of the end of World War II with a public holiday.

So it was strange to find China was celebrating the 70th anniversary with a day off -- and Hong Kong too -- because historically it was the Nationalists who fought off the Japanese and suffered great casualties, not the Communists.

But then again massaging the facts to be compatible with the PRC narrative is nothing new.

Xi Jinping inspects the troops in his Mao suit
It also fits into Chinese President Xi Jinping's plans to prove to not only the country, but the world who is in charge of 1.3 billion people.

Like his predecessor, he too wore a tailored dark Mao suit as he inspected the 12,000 soldiers, who had been practicing for probably months for this big event. Apparently they rehearsed marching so much that they wore out 16,000 pairs of boots.

Factories were shut down, people were swept off the streets and businesses in the area were closed -- basically no ordinary citizen was allowed to witness the parade first hand and instead had to watch it on television.

Xi also had his wife Peng Liyuan attend, the first time the First Lady has been allowed to be part of the festivities. She wore the obligatory red dress and pearls, giving a bit more style to the proceedings.

In his speech, Xi spoke of China's contribution to the victor of the allied powers to remind the West of the Middle Kingdom's standing.

"With huge national sacrifice, the Chinese people held ground in the main theatre in the East of the World Anti-Fascist War, thus making a major contribution to its victory," he said.''

China showed up its military might on the ground and air
"In the interests of peace, we need to foster a keen sense of a global community of a shared future. All countries should jointly uphold the international order and system underpinned by the purposes of the UN Charter," Xi continued."

He added: "China will never seek hegemony or expansion."

If China is seeking peace, then why this extraordinary show of military might? Lots of hardware was out in force to show its citizens and the world who's got power.

But while the parade was predictable, many residents were bursting with nationalistic pride -- particularly when being interviewed by foreign media.

They parroted phrases about how the parade showed how great the country is. They seemed to temporarily forget the stock market is on the fritz and there are still no answers as to what caused the massive explosions at a warehouse in Tianjin that has left at least 160 people dead.

And for Xi to say that China is not seeking hegemony or expansion is intriguing considering what's happening in the South China Sea. China has practically reclaimed land on a set of disputed reefs, even building an airstrip. If that's not expansionist, I don't know what that is.

China's party is over for now, though in less than a month there may be more celebrations with National Day on October 1.

It probably won't be as grand as it was today, though many residents may be glad giving the appearance that all is perfect in the Middle Kingdom is over, and now they can go about their daily lives again...

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