Delivery men, the world cup-winning women’s volleyball team and a special float hailing “Xi Jinping Thought” were part of a colourful 70th anniversary celebration of Communist China’s 70th anniversary Tuesday — a stark contrast with unrest in Hong Kong.
A huge fireworks show in the evening capped a day of festivities that included a pageant of more than 100,000 civilians and a massive military parade showcasing China’s emergence as a global superpower.
The daytime event included giant portraits of the top leaders of the People’s Republic of China, including its founder Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, the economic reformer who opened the country’s doors to the world.
President Xi Jinping waved from the Tiananmen rostrum as his enormous portrait rolled by.
Xi — who has increasingly styled himself after Mao by lifting presidential term limits and inscribing his political philosophy in China’s constitution — was applauded for “making China great again” by a group that paraded with his giant portrait.
There was also a special float dedicated to his anti-graft drive, which has punished more than a million corrupt officials but has been criticised for being used as a weapon to weed out political rivals.
Xi’s two immediate predecessors, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, were also at the Tiananmen Rostrum, south of the Forbidden City, to see their images.
A group of foreigners were seen on a float to promote Xi’s $1 trillion global investment drive — the Belt and Road Initiative — which is viewed with suspicion in the West for spreading Chinese influence and debt-trapping countries.
In broad brush strokes, the parade attempted to tell the story of how China had lifted millions out of poverty, with farmers, fishermen and scientists all showcasing their achievements.
– Romantic throwback –
China’s ubiquitous electric bike-driving delivery men — the footsoldiers of its rise as an e-commerce empire — were also part of the celebrations.
The show included a romantic throwback into the 70s with couples cycling along Chang’an Avenue, reminiscent of the time when bicycles were the main mode of transportation for the masses.
But it omitted tumultuous periods in the 50s and 60s when tens of millions died in a famine during the Great Leap Forward and political terror reigned in the Cultural Revolution.
Also missing was any mention of months-long protests in Hong Kong, which was mired in more violence on Tuesday during which an 18-year-old demonstrator was shot by police in the chest and taken to hospital.
Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive Carrie Lam was seen beaming from the rostrum as a float representing the semi-autonomous financial hub passed by.
Floats celebrating the cultures of the western frontier regions of Tibet and Xinjiang were also on display — but there were no references to accusations of abuses against Muslims and Buddhists in those areas.
Other floats featured China’s high-tech ambitions.
Pictures of a float for Liaoning province, an industrial base in northeast China — which included a giant winged robot striding forward — went viral on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.
The parade also put the spotlight on China’s rise as a sporting and entertainment power, with the women’s volleyball team that recently won the world cup and renowned pianist Lang Lang appearing before the crowds.
In the evening, a fireworks show lit up the skies above Tiananmen Square, with some bursts forming a “70” in the air as Xi and other officials looked on.
Thousands of dancers held up special screens to form shapes depicting the Great Wall and the Chinese flag as an orchestra played revolutionary songs.