It has been a while since I talked about China, so today is a good day to return to the subject. October 1st is a very important day on the Chinese calendar. It is the day that China celebrates the founding of the People’s Republic of China, which happened in 1949 in a ceremony at Tiananmen Square.
Schools close for a week and many people travel to their hometowns to visit family and celebrate together. The Chinese government celebrates the day by organizing fireworks displays and other festivities, including turning Tiananmen Square into a huge flower garden (I hope the video loads more quickly for you than it did for me). This year China also launched a satellite to the moon on the same day. China wants to send astronauts to the moon and this mission was to test some of the technologies for that.
This year’s events did not receive the attention that last year’s did. Last year was the 60th anniversary of the founding of the republic, and the government put on a huge military parade on Changan Lu (Long Peace Road, ironically), showing off all of the new military hardware that China has developed in-country. It was a display of strength that made a great story for western media outlets looking to portray China’s military as a growing threat. Some, however, argued it also displayed weakness, since the Chinese government did not let Beijing residents anywhere near the parade, lest they disrupt the carefully-planned event. Whichever side you agree with, the scenes of tanks, trucks, armored personnel vehicles and thousands of soldiers passing in formation past Tiananmen Gate under the approving eyes of President Hu Jintao were striking.