GP Insights # 158, 5 October 2019
On 1 October, Peoples' Republic of China celebrated seventy years of communist rule, basking under the glory of its massive military and economic buildup. President Xi oversaw the vast military parade, mostly a show of strength of communist China. Reportedly, 15000 personnel, 160 aircrafts, more than 500 military equipments were paraded on the Tiananmen Square.
Notably, DF-41, China's new intercontinental ballistic missile made an appearance. Apart from showcasing the military's human resources and apparatus, there were events and performances by civil society.
What is the background?
In 1949, Chairman Mao Tse Tung pronounced the Peoples' Republic of China, replacing the earlier Republic of China. The communists had won a violent civil war. Mao was a radical socialist; he used the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward to secure his objectives. Millions succumbed to poverty and hunger until Deng Xiaoping's economic policies brought some relief.
Economically, China experimented with capitalism, but politically, it did not allow communism to become liberalism. The Tiananmen Square episode became an international blot on China. However, it's economic might grew manifold; today's China stands as a testimony to it.
What does it mean?
The location of the celebrations - Tiananmen Square, was symbolic. It marks seventy years of the communist rule, than the massacre that it has been internationally associated with, thus clearly sending a message: politically, China will continue to adhere to the foundations laid by Mao and Deng. The government made all efforts, produced White Papers and published statistics to prove that China had prospered under the Communist rule and the legacy of its leaders. It has been successful in increasing life expectancy, bringing millions out of poverty, achieving double-digit economic growth rate, and cementing its image as an emerging great power.
This celebration comes at a time when there are continued protests in Hong Kong. On 1 October, police arrested scores of protestors, fired tear gas as people blocked roads and expressed their frustration over excessive control. Hong Kong is not the only case in "new" China, where free voices are muted; Tibet, Xinjiang, and Taiwan also fall under the category. The celebrations also come at a time when economically China is facing a trade war with the US, reduced growth rates, and increasing suspicion over the Belt and Road Initiative. However, President Xi proclaimed in his address in Tiananmen that "no force can stop the Chinese people and nation from marching forward." It is to be seen how PRC continues the seventy-year legacy and manages its image internationally.