China's Sixtieth Birthday and Military Parade

Posted by: Dexter Roberts on September 30, 2009

It’s the eve of the big day: the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of China’s founding on October 1st, 1949, and Beijing has the odd feeling of being under some kind of ill-defined siege. In recent days, helicopters and fighter jets have occasionally buzzed overhead (unheard of in Beijing) while many more police than usual stand watchful at intersections in the heart of the city and others stroll through the city’s parks including Ritan, home to the historic temple of the sun. Traffic is already unusually light and rumors are rampant about just how much the city’s usually grid-locked streets will be declared off limits to all vehicles and perhaps even foot traffic. With China’s leadership planning to parade its latest military hardware including tanks, artillery, and missiles, down Beijing’s major east-west artery of Chang An Avenue, and with jets and helicopters above, it’s clear however, that there will be major disruptions.

Expats in the Jianwai branch of Starbucks—it will be shut tomorrow the staff tell me as it lies just a stone’s throw from Chang An—are talking about how they have stocked up on food and beer (will most shops and restaurants close their doors, many are wondering?) and are planning mini parties at home where friends will gather to watch the parade on television. Other friends are planning to watch the show from Hooter’s, the American restaurant chain of questionable taste, enjoying the irony of choosing that venue to observe what is sure to be a massive display of Chinese national and Party pride. And last night I heard the American owner of a popular Japanese restaurant say he has rented a hotel room for the next couple of nights—even though his apartment isn’t on Chang An or anywhere near Tiananmen Square where the parade’s action will focus, he’s decided it is close enough to potentially put a serious crimp on his activities over the next couple days.

Meanwhile, the office I work from has been declared off limits starting from today (I am writing this from the hip bar/coffee shop of a nearby five star hotel)—it sits too close to Chang An Avenue. Another friend tells me they were ordered to take a broken printer out of their office—police will be visiting today to inspect all the office equipment and who’s to say a broken printer might not be a bomb in disguise? And for those of us who live in the Jianwai and Qijiayuan Diplomatic Compounds, both abutting the length of Chang An called Jian Guo Men Wai—we have been living under a raft of new rules and restrictions for the second half of September. Indeed, all of us resident there had to apply for special individual passes as well as car permits as security precautions in the run-up to tomorrow’s celebration.

Here in part are the rules, as posted in a notice entitled “A Letter to Residents”:

1. During the period between 4 p.m. September 30th and 12 p.m. October 1st, please do not invite your friends or other persons into the Diplomatic Residence Compound.
2. During the period between 7 a.m. and 12 p.m. October 1st, please do not open any window or balcony door facing Jian Guo Men Wai Street (the Chang An Avenue); please also do not stand on the balcony to watch the ceremony.
3. As of 7 a.m. September 20th, the Diplomatic Residence Compound shall, in accordance with relevant regulations of the Beijing Municipal Government, prohibit any person or vehicle which does not have a new temporary pass from entering the Compound.

Of course, these rules are but minor annoyances for those of us—mainly foreign—who live in the diplomatic compounds near Chang An. But regrettably there are much more serious restrictions being implemented. Some Japanese journalists were recently attacked in their hotel room by several men, presumably for their attempts to cover an earlier rehearsal of the parade. And renewed efforts to censor the Internet in recent days affect all Chinese, of course. Over the past few months too, Beijing has targeted and shut down sites maintained for China’s minority groups including Mongolians and Uighurs. That’s happening despite the fact officials have decided to honor China’s ethnic diversity by featuring 56 regiments in tomorrow’s parade—56 because that’s the official number of ethnic groups in China.

Reader Comments

Paul

September 30, 2009 10:57 AM

Dexter, your report above sounds very negative, a very usual westerner's report anything China or Chinese. Why are all of you so critical of China and the Chinese people? Everything you say and no matter which or what report, and no matter whatever positivism you guys put in will include or end up with negativism and prediction of doom and gloom or sarcasm. It seems that westerners are very jealous and do not want to see a peaceful and unified (and powerful) China. With such bad intent in mind, that is why all reports on China by westerners are very negative and condemns China all the time. It is evil. For the same or worst things that western countries and western governments do, they may be seen as normal or nothing much is said about. Remember that all the bad things that westerners do not so long ago including forcing the Chinese to take opium or the Germans causing the holocaust. Those are unforgivable crimes, just to name two of the thousands of crimes and mass murders whites have done. Westerners must learn to be more peaceful, more acceptable and respectful of Asian values. In fact we Asians never view China as any threat at all. For hundreds of years even during the glory days of China, the Chinese have never conquered or colonised any land in Asian territory. The Chinese themselves have gone thru great hardship, apart form being bullied by the western powers in the 1800s and then the japanese who killed some more than 20 million Chinese during WWII. Thats worst than the holocaust. China did not go on crying about it unlike the holocaust which of course was also a very sad event. So stop condemning. Perhaps touch your inner soul and perhaps reconcile with the history books. The China of today has been built with great hardship and pain to reach where they are today. I do hope that then you may be more understanding and loving towards China and appreciate the peace and co-operation that China preaches. And share it with your fellow western colleagues and friends. I hope you enjoy the PRC's 60th anniversary tomorrow.

Paul

September 30, 2009 11:28 AM

Well it seems my first comments were not approved because I cannot bring back a little memory of history or criticize western journalists and negative reports! So much about democracy and freedom of the western press?

Roger

September 30, 2009 2:42 PM

@Paul:

Take it easy, son. Dexter here has a completely honest report of the ground reality. china is very scared of "social unrest" and it takes to journalistic genius to expose how china will go to great lengths to contain any unrest. Security checks are important for a parade for which some high ranking chinese officials will be present. So, this cordoning off of vicinity next to Chang An avenue is understandable. But, attacking Japanese journalists as a "rehearsal" just shows china's fear of Japanese dominance. Maybe, it reminds you of your terrible past? And is that what prompts china to flex its muscles and show might in a military parade?

Fa

September 30, 2009 3:00 PM

I totally agree with Paul's view

Fa

September 30, 2009 3:00 PM

I totally agree with Paul's view

postman

September 30, 2009 3:08 PM

Well said Paul. I think the problem of Westerners are that they want to share their "values" but they don't know how to do it in a respectful way. In Chinese value system, "respect" is more important than "sharing". But westerners seems put them in opposite order. That's why they fail in Iraq and Afghanistan. They don't respect people there, think they are low lives and try to force the so call "democracy" into people's throats.

Westerners

September 30, 2009 4:07 PM

Western mindset is always about domination not coexistence. When they feel China is a threat for their dominance..they would get paranoid at every little incident. They would call out China on everything that the U.S does 10 times worst. A recent business week article criticizing Chinese manipulating economic Data..while the short term memory author of the article totally forgot that the U.S started the financial crises.

tsz

September 30, 2009 6:54 PM

chinese native here.
visiting this very website via a proxy.
i don't find anything biased or unfair about this piece. just plain, straight facts.
there's a group called The Party of 50 Cents in china, who got paid by saying nice things about china online. usually a comment like Paul's, above, brings the commenter 50 cents.(actually 50 "mao", which is half a CNY/RMB)
suspicious!

Daniel

September 30, 2009 8:54 PM

@Roger, just for clarification, exactly what do you mean by "terrible past"? The closest thing I can think of was China's military weakness that led to foreign occupation. Or are you referring to the Maoist period?

Personally I think the attacks on Japanese reporters were almost definitely committed by Chinese nationals (if you've ever read some of the nationalistic blogs you'll know why, there's seriously people calling for nuclear pre-emptive strikes on Japan and stuff like that) rather than government officials, which may say something about public opinion but probably nothing about the party line

As a mainland Chinese living in Hong Kong, there are definitely problems on the mainland, I think most media tends to miss the strength of the nation, and the attitude among Chinese is almost universally optimistic, quite contrary to the most media's perspective of China

Daniel

September 30, 2009 8:54 PM

@Roger, just for clarification, exactly what do you mean by "terrible past"? The closest thing I can think of was China's military weakness that led to foreign occupation. Or are you referring to the Maoist period?

Personally I think the attacks on Japanese reporters were almost definitely committed by Chinese nationals (if you've ever read some of the nationalistic blogs you'll know why, there's seriously people calling for nuclear pre-emptive strikes on Japan and stuff like that) rather than government officials, which may say something about public opinion but probably nothing about the party line

As a mainland Chinese living in Hong Kong, there are definitely problems on the mainland, I think most media tends to miss the strength of the nation, and the attitude among Chinese is almost universally optimistic, quite contrary to the most media's perspective of China

Daniel

September 30, 2009 8:54 PM

@Roger, just for clarification, exactly what do you mean by "terrible past"? The closest thing I can think of was China's military weakness that led to foreign occupation. Or are you referring to the Maoist period?

Personally I think the attacks on Japanese reporters were almost definitely committed by Chinese nationals (if you've ever read some of the nationalistic blogs you'll know why, there's seriously people calling for nuclear pre-emptive strikes on Japan and stuff like that) rather than government officials, which may say something about public opinion but probably nothing about the party line

As a mainland Chinese living in Hong Kong, there are definitely problems on the mainland, I think most media tends to miss the strength of the nation, and the attitude among Chinese is almost universally optimistic, quite contrary to the most media's perspective of China

Eric

September 30, 2009 8:59 PM

@ Roger

But can't Dexter at least pretend to be in the spirit of a celebration instead of going against it?

Faye

September 30, 2009 11:29 PM

@Roger:
Oh,really?And if the fear of the Japan is the reason of china's milltary parade, then the fear of a stronger china in the future will be explaination of your words and all western's negative reports. Ask any Chinese if they are SCARED by the past brought by japan. And each and every of them will abosutely give the same answer: no, we never feel fear but we do feel pain and anger when call back the history.
And if millions of people in your homeland were slaughterd in an evil war started only because of an ambition of a country you will realize that to take the terrible and misery history as a weapon to shame a country is such a cold-blood and contemptible action. It SUCKS.

Jettia

October 1, 2009 1:04 AM

You are totally wrong.China doesnt need to show to anybody how powerful it is.It is just a celebration.Presentation is all.
As for some riots.Western media gave a distorted version of an event in China.

Terry

October 1, 2009 5:00 AM

quote "But, attacking Japanese journalists as a "rehearsal" just shows china's fear of Japanese dominance."
Roger,I have to say that you have absolutely no idea about what China is, including Chinese policy, culture and people. I can not explain all the details fot you here, I can only say China is more complex than you thought and simpler than you think. The so-called "assult" to Japanese journalists is just because they broke the rule in forecasting the rehearsal and refuse to make a concession, but not because of their nationality. If they are not Japanese but American or Chinese, the result will be the same. The rule is rule. As to your explanation, I have to say they are imaginative, with strong logic flow and a good knowledge of history, but ridiculous. I'm really confused how this event can show china's fear of Japanese dominance? During this ceremony, I didn't see any unrest or scare on people's face as Americans after 911, but confidence and proud. What's more, Chinese peole has never feared any country and people in the world, the terrible past make us stronger, with more expectation and resolution to our future, just like Jews. We took a military parade not only showed the development of China in 60 years but also the government's ability to protect our people and solve problems by ourselves, but not a threat to other countries. No matter what the journals say, the truth will never be changed and distorted, and China's development will never be interrupted by these negetive news.

Willy

October 1, 2009 7:54 AM

Japan had committed war crimes by killing million of innocent civilians in Shanghai and Nanking. Japanese soldiers had undertaken experiment on soldiers and civilians (innoculation of viruses and vivisection.
Social unrest is not specific to China, there are social unrests in France (Muslim and Black riots), Greece etc.
China has been able to develop economically despite the current western embargo on technology access. China is the safest country in the world with limited cases of murder, rape etc this is not the case of the US, Mexico etc.
Westerners must not forget where are their ennemies.

Willy

October 1, 2009 8:04 AM

Western countries are jealous of China. The US and the EU are using India to counter balance the rising power of China. Westerners are praying everyday that social unrests leads to the splitover of China so they can get a hand on its resources and territory. To that aim the Westerners are using the Dalai Lama, Ouigur terrorists, India and Vietnam.

Moonlight

October 1, 2009 1:40 PM

As far as I know, this Japanese journalist being attacked is because he cut the steel wire which is used to tie the windows.
Chinese government had told all the journalists screening the earlier rehearsal of the parade was forbidden! And on the window there is a warning note not to break the window! But this journalist still cut the steel wire! He disobeyed the rule!

XY

October 1, 2009 10:27 PM

Another stupid article from a silly man. Brainwashed westerners get fine treats from brainwashed western reporters. These guys haven't got the slightest hint about what China is and China stands for. These smart asses thought they knew China. These slimey journalists are the biggest joke of all. No wonder BW is going downhill. No wonder noe one is interested in buying out BW. These guys will soon be out of a job. lol!

DFly

October 6, 2009 10:09 PM

As a young boy, mum always say that China was a great nation and have not lost its bearing, just a momentarily setback, and Mandarin will be an important language in time to come. Surprisingly, and coincidentally, these same words are echo by our legendary investor and world traveller Jim Rogers. To all the critics of China, be it politicians, journalists, Westerners, may I say this. Before you start rumbling about China's ill intent with her massive military spending, and military modernisation, let's look at some facts. China built the Great Wall of China not to invade others but to keep other marauding bands of so called babarians out. History will also tell you, how China suffered in the hands of others, the British occupation, a result of the opium war, yes, in case you think highly of the Brits at that time, they were nothing more than narcotics traders in modern day terminology. Then came the Western powers, during the closing days of the Qin dynasty, occupying parts of China, in so called concessions. Then came the brutality of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second World War invasion. Not only they looted, they raped, killed and left destructions, a deep scare, and to rub salt to wound, attempt to deny all wrongdoings, and wanted to erase facts from their history books to brainwash their future generations. China has proven in history never an agressor, and in my humble opinion, will have no intention to be one. China intention is clear and simple, to protect their own interests. Next time, before you get the itch or temptation to critisize China, like it is fashionable to do so, take a good look at yourself in the mirror. What rights have you to critisize when your kind take slaves from Africa, sold opium, take land from others and colonise them, plunder their resources, steal their cultural relics, use up the planet precious resources when you make up a much much smaller proportion of the earth's population, and the lists goes on. My advice to you is to be humble, take life as it is, as the saying go, what goes around, comes around. In life, you can only win some of the time and not all the time. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Take advantage of this economic downturn to take stock of your life, analyse what went wrong with your political system, leadership and take interest and steps to improve the situation, and not useless activity in China bashing. Cleanup your own backyard first before you even comtemplate talking of others. Taking the opportunity here to wish all Chinese in China and around the world a happy 60th National Day.

Jeff

October 7, 2009 12:10 AM

It is destined that both america and china cannot escape the spotlight of the world. ppl just like to hype the hype and blame the blame.

As for China, just ask your self, when they dun show you the military equipment you say they are secretive when they show you, you say they are aggressive.

when chinese show thier nationalism you say its propaganda but alot hollywood movies show american nationalism like spider man climbing on the american flag.

see?

boys and girls why dun both sides accept the fact that both countries are destined to be in line and face the same bs humanity has to thorw at us.

alot chinese actually do not want china to be like usa. becoz we dun want to see everyday open up news channel we see ppl from parts of the world burning the red, blue, white american flag. that is the symbol of a superpower, its influnce. i dun think chinese want to see the image on tv change to the 5 star red flag.

so be at ease...

Objective American

October 7, 2009 1:21 AM

Paul and DFly: You are good. You read MY mind. I don't need to repeat it.

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