China’s President Xi Jinping told crowds the era of being “bullied” was over and that anyone who tried to separate the party and the Chinese people was doomed to failure, as the Chinese Communist Party celebrated its centenary.
Speaking from the balcony above the portrait of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square, Xi spoke for more than an hour of the party’s successes since its founding in Shanghai in 1921.
Accompanied by the party’s senior leaders both past and present, he spoke of how the party had freed China from an “exploitative” feudal system, created a “socialist market economy brimming with vitality” and eliminated absolute poverty.
“Only socialism can save China, and only socialism with Chinese characteristics can develop China,” said Xi, who was dressed in a dark grey Mao-style suit.
The Chinese Communist Party defeated the nationalists in the country’s civil war in 1949 and Mao Zedong declared the People’s Republic of China with the goal of lifting people out of crushing poverty. China is now the world’s second-largest economy and Xi is considered the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.
The celebrations come at a time when Beijing is under severe pressure over — trade tensions have risen with countries including the United States and Australia, policies in the far western region of Xinjiang, as well as Hong Kong and Tibet. There are also questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, which emerged in the central city of Wuhan, and continues to cause havoc around the world.
At the head of an increasingly confident party and nation, Xi warned that any attempt to separate the party and the people was “bound to fail”.
While China “welcome[d] friendly suggestions from all around the world”, Xi said the country would not accept “arrogant lectures”.
The loudest rounds of applause and cheering came when Xi said that Chinese people would “no longer allow any alien powers to bully and oppress us”, and that anyone who tried to do so would “be badly battered by the Chinese nation’s perseverance”.
“No one should underestimate the Chinese nation’s will and power to fight against foreign power,” Xi added.
The centenary celebrations in Beijing began with a flypast as about 30 military aircraft formed a “100” in the skies above the cheering crowds. There were also trumpets and horns blasting communist songs, and 100-gun salutes fired into the sky in extravagant celebrations of national pride.
At airports and train stations, on billboards, on posters and propaganda materials across television and social media, China has been turned the red of the Communist party.
In northwestern Gansu province’s Longnan, a transit spot for the Chinese Communist Party fighters during the Great March of 1934, party flags were hung on the roof of each household and large statues of the hammer and sickle erected weeks before July 1.
The town has become a popular spot for ‘red tourism’.
Longnan is not the only town celebrating the country’s governing party’s birthday.
The entire nation has been mobilised to observe the day – from the giant city of Shanghai where the CCP was founded and the first party congress convened – to small towns in Xinjiang where Beijing has been accused of suppressing the rights of the ethnic minority Uighurs.
Despite the general mood of exuberance, there have been some complaints that the preparations for the event have obstructed daily life. Special security checks were installed for Beijing-bound travellers ahead of the celebration, roads surrounding Tiananmen were closed for days, and police and paramilitary forces stationed in nearly all corners of the city.