The celebrations were more than simple festivities, but rather a chance to bolster national pride and display China’s military might, Amy Shi writes.
As the People’s Republic of China celebrated its 70th National Day on October 1 2019, television screens around the world were donned in images of the spectacular celebratory parade.
An explosion of red, President Xi Jinping’s beaming face and the synchronisation of the Chinese military marching down Tiananmen Square were common sights.
However, the parade was more than just a celebration.
The message was clear. To Chinese citizens; a chance to bolster national pride and legitimise the regime. To the world; a political warning and an opportunity to display China’s military might.
70 years later, and China has progressed leaps and bounds developmentally. Under Xi, China is now striving for the ‘China Dream’; a nation of innovation and reform which stands tall among others.
At the First Plenary Session of the Central National Security Commission in 2014, Xi conceptualised China’s priority to be political security in order to follow a “national security path with Chinese characteristics”. In addition to Xi’s establishment of the Commission and role as Chair to manage internal and external threats to the regime, he abolished the two-term presidency to ensure his tenure as President and achieved unprecedented levels of centralised power since the Mao dictatorship.
On the 70th anniversary of Communist China, with the eyes of China and the world on him, there was no better time for Xi to take the stage and further his political agenda; the survival of the Chinese Communist Party.
Domestically, the National Day parade was a big deal. As many as 1.2 billion people of China’s 1.3 billion population tuned in to watch the parade.
With internal distrust and domestic riots a significant threat to the Chinese Communist Party, the grandeur of the parade was a drawing point to reel the public in. After all, who isn’t a little impressed by a good celebration with dancers, balloons, fireworks and a giant portrait of the President aboard a float?
But more than that, the parade fostered a sense of nationalism among Chinese citizens. The public want to feel a sense of togetherness as part of a beautiful country, and a colourful show of the nation’s prosperity is a grand way to stoke their nationalistic pride.
In the days leading up to the event, China’s media censorship and propaganda were ramped up to prevent any non-nationalistic discourse from dampening the affairs. Chinese citizens remained oblivious to the most violent day in the Hong Kong anti-government protests, while their televisions were covered instead with reports of pro-Beijing demonstrators in Hong Kong unfurling a Chinese flag along Victoria Harbour.
The result was a strategic fanfare of patriotic media with great political significance to legitimise the CCP’s leadership and strengthen national pride.
China also wants the rest of the world to know that they are stronger than ever.
During the 80-minute parade, which was one of the largest in China’s history, China put on a display of its increased military capabilities. The star of the show was the reveal of a hypersonic ballistic nuclear missile, the DF-17, which is believed to be more difficult to detect and intercept. China’s new DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile was also debuted during the celebrations, with the alleged capability to strike the United States in 30 minutes.
Xi smiled and waved proudly as the nuclear weapons and other military machinery were displayed, joined also by former Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin on the stage. More than 15,000 members of the People’s Liberation Army paraded the grounds. The flex of the military bicep was too strong to ignore; this is a sneak peek of what China’s military wrath could look like, and China hopes that the world is shaking in their boots.
Despite China’s rise as a powerful nation in the international sphere, the parade could not have been timelier.
Slowing economic growth and the ongoing trade war with the United States, has caused cracks to appear in Xi’s leadership. Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong has tarnished the global image of China and the communist rule. China’s own social inequality has resulted in domestic unrest.
As such, it’s clear that the parade was more than just a celebration. The parade was an opportune chance for Xi to ensure the survival of his regime.
The parade was a reminder to China and the world that Communist China has overcome significant challenges in the last 70 years, with Xi warning that no force could stop China’s progress.
And despite recent developments, Xi is determined for all to know that under the Chinese Communist Party, China is stronger, unified and more prosperous than ever.