Parading the People’s Republic

In light of the 3 September 2015 mega military parade held at Tiananmen Square in Beijing both to mark the seventieth anniversary of the end of Second Sino-Japanese War in 1945 and to acclaim the achievements of Xi Jinping, China’s Chairman of Everything (for the Chinese media logorrhea related to the parade, see The China Story Dossier here), we offer the following article from China Heritage Quarterly.

This essay, which is reprinted with minor emendations, was written by Geremie R Barmé and Sang Ye; it reviews the fourteen National Day parades held in the Chinese capital since 1949 (for a recent official update and coverage of those parades, see the People’s Daily here).

The 3 September 2015 Grand Military Parade is the fifteenth large-scale event of its kind in the history of the People’s Republic (not counting such confected crowd-sourced events as anti-US rallies, Mao’s eight reviews of amassed Red Guards in 1966 and celebrations following the coup d’état against the ‘Gang of Four’ in October 1976). It is an out-of-sequence triumph, heavily freighted with Xi-era self-congratulation. The next grand National Day parade will be held on 1 October 2019, the eve of China achieving its first vaunted ‘centennial goal’: ‘moderate prosperity’ for the nation.

A pre-parade joke popular on WeChat:

老师: 请用“竟然”造句。

小明: 一个1949年成立的国家,竟然在1945年成为了战胜国。这国在国庆66周年竟然阅兵庆祝胜利70周年。

老师: 滚出去!

Teacher: construct a sentence using the expression ‘surprisingly’.

Student: a nation founded in 1949 surprisingly was a victor nation in 1945. Just as surprising is the fact that the same country is celebrating the seventieth anniversary of the victory in the sixty-sixth year of its founding!

Teacher: Get out!

— The Editors

______________

China’s National Day, which falls on 1 October each year, has since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949 developed a heritage all of its own. It has been marked variously by major parades, celebrations, extravagant fireworks and, on occasion, by the display of military hardware and reviews of serried ranks of striding soldiers. Recalling these National Days and providing an overview of the kinds of military parades and mass marches organized by the party-state over the years offers a perspective on the changing official priorities of socialist China. As the state marks time with slogans, meetings, political movements and orchestrated expressions of mass will, it is through the National Day celebrations over the past sixty years that one can gauge the unsteady biorhythms of the nation-state. Just as the clamour of celebration indicates the formal nature of state power, silences and absences have other stories to tell, the tenor of which is frequently hard to discern.

On 1 October 1949, the People’s Republic of China was inaugurated at a mass ceremony in the heart of Beijing (which had, until only five days earlier, been known as Beiping from 1928). At this founding ceremony, or kaiguo dadian 开国大典, Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party of China, declared the establishment of the Central People’s Government. At the Fourth Meeting of the Central People’s Government held on 3 December that year, a decision was duly passed stipulating that henceforth 1 October of each year would be celebrated as National Day.

1 October National Day celebrations have gone through a number of changes over the fifty-nine years since. Prior to 1959 all National Days featured mass parades, including a military parade, through Tiananmen Square, a space that was enlarged to its present area in the first decade of the new nation. While the scale of the parades reflected the aspirations of the new state, the choreographed style and intial design were inspired by similar ‘carnivals of the people’ organised from the early days of the Soviet Union, but also familiar to us from mass athletics’ displays in various Eastern European countries dating from the ninteenth century, and particularly popular in the 1930s. Although such collective displays of male might had a particular modern provenance, the street parade inherited and built on elements of victory celebrations dating back to the Roman Triumph. In China, parades of military might, captured loot and enslaved enemies were a common feature of imperial power, and they can be traced back to the Yin-Shang period (second millennium BCE).

Combining elements of the regimented festival with the pomp and hierarchical practices that resonated with certain kinds of imperial and republican-era grandeur, the National Day parades of the People’s Republic of China were also a by-product of a close cooperation with fraternal comrades from the Eastern Bloc. In fact, shortly after 1 October 1949, instructors were dispatched from Eastern Europe to offer advice on how best to stage-manage socialist state occasions. These same ‘imagineers’, to use an expression from Disney Inc. (and Hollywood was never that far away from the socialist festivities), also helped the North Koreans develop their celebrated synchronized galas, the mass games that are still a feature of the annual Arirang Festival.

In view of the ‘catastrophic natural disasters’ (to use the official euphemistic formulation) experienced by China during and as a result of the Great Leap Forward of the late 1950s, in September 1960 Party Central and the State Council made a strategic change to the protocols governing National Day celebrations. The official decision promulgated at the time declared that henceforth, ‘National Day will be celebrated with frugality: there will be small-scale festivities every five years or 小庆 and major celebrations, 大庆, including a military parade, only every ten years’. A march past would feature every year, and this was the norm until 1970. Although 1969 marked the twentieth anniversary of the People’s Republic meriting a major military parade, due to the exigencies occasioned by the Cultural Revolution the armed forces—infantry, air force and navy—were represented by soldiers who marched in the main parade. The 1 October 1971 parade was cancelled due to the ‘Lin Biao Incident’ in September of that year which saw the flight and death in suspicious circumstances of Chairman Mao’s handpicked successor and close comrade-in-arms, Marshall Lin Biao. Thereafter, until 1983, National Day celebrations were marked by mass entertainments in the public parks of the capital—called ‘park festivities’ 游园—but not with organized parades.

For observers of Chinese politics, the ‘parade’ of leaders on the podium of Tiananmen Gate provided an opportunity to determine the state of political fortunes. Official reports were punctilious about the order in which leaders were named and news photographs were a crucial key to understanding the ever-shifting pecking order of power.

According to the official guidelines, the thirty-fifth Chinese National Day that fell on 1 October 1984, should by all rights have been a small-scale celebration. The appropriate large-scale celebration would have been held on 1 October 1979, but the country was still recovering from the Cultural Revolution and the endless mass rallies that had been its most public feature. Therefore, as 1984 also happened to mark the architect of China’s reform policies Deng Xiaoping’s eightieth birthday, it was decided to stage a mass parade and display of the armed forces on the 1 October that year in place of the aborted 1979 celebration. (Official news reports of the day, following strict protocol, however, listed the Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang’s name ahead of that of Deng Xiaoping, the Chairman of the Party’s Military Commission.)

The fortieth anniversary of the People’s Republic fell on 1 October 1989 and, since parts of the capital were still under martial law following the violent denouement to the peaceful mass protests earlier in the year, the festivities were curtailed and plans for a parade were dropped. The next large-scale celebration marked the fiftieth anniversary of the state on 1 October 1999.

Thus, in the sixty years since the founding of the People’s Republic, so far only thirteen formal military reviews have been held in Tiananmen Square, that is one for each of the eleven years from 1949 to 1959, then again in 1984 and again in 1999. The fourteenth grand military parade 盛大阅兵 was staged on 1 October 2009.

The following material focuses on the military parades on China’s National Days. Details are given of which leaders attended, the scale of the military display and the slogans (chanted and featured on placards) formulated by the propaganda authorities. While enemies were not displayed in these victory marches, rhetorical triumphalism and violence was a constant theme of such parades and the mass demonstrations regularly held in Tiananmen until the end of the Cultural Revoltion era. It should be noted that the military displays discussed below were held in conjunction with mass parades featuring more general themes, representatives of various sectors of state production, provinces and interest groups, as well as often extravagant and garishly imaginative parade floats, performances and so on. These carefully choreographed ‘socialist mardi gras’, are also highly noteworthy, but beyond the range of this brief account of how the Chinese party-state has celebrated, and continues to celebrate, itself. The excerpts from documentary films of some of these parades shed a timely light on the relatively modest opening and closing ceremonies organised for the August 2008 Beijing Olympics.

For the official reports on the five major National Days published at the time in People’s Daily, click on the following links:

1949 | 1959 | 1969 | 1984 | 1999 and, for the 2009 Grand Parade, see here.

 

The Passing Cavalcade

Grand Parade

1949

Officiating state leader: Zhu De, deputy chairman of the Central People’s Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
Military commander: Nie Rongzhen.

Soldiers under review: 16,400, mostly infantry and mounted cavalry, and small numbers of soldiers with artillery and armoured vehicles, as well as some representatives of the navy and the air force.

Duration of the parade: 180 minutes.

New China News Agency headline: 300,000 people in the capital gathered in Tiananmen Square to solemnly celebrate the ceremony marking the founding of the Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China. These headline stories would be reprinted verbatim and on the front pages of newspapers throughout China.

Slogans featuring on large placards held up by the marchers: Celebrate the founding of the People’s Republic of China! Long live the People’s Republic! Long live the Central People’s Government! Long live Chairman Mao! Long live the Chinese Communist Party! Long live the People’s Liberation Army! Develop heavy industry; improve national defence! There is power in unity! Stand forever in solidarity with our great friend the Soviet Union of Socialist Republics and defend the continued peace of the world!

1950

Officiating state leader: Zhu De, deputy chairman of the Central People’s Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
Military commander: Nie Rongzhen.

Soldiers under review: 24,200, including cadets from military colleges.

Duration of the parade: 210 minutes, the longest military parade.

New China News Agency headline: The enthusiasm of 400,000 people, representatives of all spheres in the square creating a sea of joy: commemorating the first National Day since the founding of the People’s Republic of China a grand celebration at a mass gathering of 400,000 people, a grand review of the army and a huge demonstration of people from all echelons.

Slogans: Long live the People’s Republic of China! Long live the great unity of the peoples of the world! Long live Chairman Mao! Long live the Chinese Communist Party! Long live the People’s Liberation Army! Long live Stalin! Liberate Taiwan and Tibet! Oppose the aggression of American Imperialism in Taiwan and Korea!

Leaders’ portraits: this year saw the largest number of Party-state leaders’ portraits held up by marchers during the review. These included the Chinese leaders: Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Gao Gang, Chen Yun and Sun Yat-sen. Leaders of fraternal nations and communist parties were also represented with portraits of: Josef Stalin, Kim Il-sung, Bolesaw Bierut of Poland, Klement Gottwald of Czechoslovakia, Wilhelm Pieck of East Germany, Romania’s Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, Rakosi Matyas of Hungary, Bulgarian Volko Chervenkov, Albania’s Enver Hoxha, Hawllger Jobashan of Mongolia, Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, Tokyu Kyuichi of the Japanese Communist Party, Maurice Thorez of the French Communist Party, the Italian communist leader Palmiro Togliatti, the USA communist leader William Zebulon Foster, Harry Pollitt of the UK and Dolores Iburruri of Spain.

Slogans: Hereafter, the five ‘long live slogans’—’Long live the People’s Republic of China! Long live the great unity of the peoples of the world! Long live Chairman Mao! Long live the Chinese Communist Party! Long live the People’s Liberation Army!’—would be de rigueur in National Day parades for years to come.

1951

Officiating state leader: Zhu De, deputy chairman of the Central People’s Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
Military commander: Nie Rongzhen.

Soldiers under review: 13,350, including jet pilots, representatives of the militia and commanders from military colleges.

Leaders’ portraits: Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De and Sun Yat-sen, as well as Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. (Chen Yun was absent until 1954).

New China News Agency headline: An epoch-making development in the strength of the people of the motherland; celebrating the second National Day of the People’s Republic of China.

Slogans (in addition to the prescribed ‘five long lives’ mentioned in the above): Joyously celebrate the victories of the Chinese Volunteer Army on the Korean front! Oppose the US, support Korea and protect the motherland! Down with American Imperialism!

1952

Officiating state leader: Zhu De, deputy chairman of the Central People’s Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
Military commander: Nie Rongzhen.

Soldiers under review: 11,300, including public security forces.

Leaders’ portraits: Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De and Sun Yat-sen, as well as Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin.

New China News Agency headline: A grand military review, the people march, protecting world peace; joyously celebrating the third National Day of the People’s Republic of China.

Slogans (in addition to the prescribed ‘five long lives’ mentioned in the above): Celebrate the great victories in all respects of the Chinese people over the past three years! Defend the motherland, defend world peace! Oppose the crimes of aggression of the American Imperialists! Oppose the use of chemical warfare by the American Imperialists! Joyously celebrate the victory of our opposition to American aggression and support for Korea! We pay our respects to the Liberation Army and the Volunteer Army! We pay our respects to the model workers! Develop the athletics movement and improve the physical strength of the people!

During this parade Tibetan representatives were featured in the viewing platforms, as were ethnic minority groups from the various regions of China. In the parade itself squads of militiamen and women marched dressed in various ethnic costumes.

1953

Officiating state leader: Zhu De, deputy chairman of the Central People’s Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
Military commander: Nie Rongzhen.

Soldiers under review: 10,050, including soldiers with missiles.

Leaders’ portraits: Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De and Sun Yat-sen, as well as Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. (Chen Yun was absent until 1954).

New China News Agency headline: The first year of the Five-year Plan, the military parade for National Day gives us courage; a grand celebration of the nation’s day is held in the capital. Chairman Mao Zedong reviews armed troops and a mass rally.

Slogans (in addition to the prescribed ‘five long lives’ mentioned in the above): Long live peace! Long live the motherland! Celebrate the victory of the struggle to oppose US aggression and support Korea! Celebrate the basic completion of the task to eliminate the remnant forces of the three kinds of enemy and the various social movements associated to it! Enthusiastically prepare to participate in the elections, and use the increased democratization of the nation to advance our country’s reconstruction! This is the first year of our nation’s first Five-year Plan!

This was the first year in which industry-specific slogans appeared during the parade. For example, the railways: Struggle to save 30 billion yuan by increasing production and saving on costs! Commerce: Work hard to improve management, develop the exchange of goods between the cities and countryside! Oppose speculation and tax evasion! Students: Healthy bodies, hard study and good work!

This was also the first year in which quotations from recent speeches by Mao Zedong were included, although they were hardly particularly pithy slogans:

The people of the nation should work together and struggle for the socialization of the nation’s industry and complete the socialist transformation of all other sectors so that we can gradually complete the transition to socialism, and to that end support the patriotic movement to increase production while saving on resources so that we can successfully fulfil and surpass the state plan!

Gradually realized the socialization of industry and the socialist transformation of agriculture, handicrafts and private business!

1954

Officiating state leader: Zhu De, vice-premier of the State Council and Minister of Defence.
Military commander: Yang Chengwu.

Soldiers under review: 10,400, including paratroopers. In all there were 38 squads and four air force squadrons in a fly over.

New China News Agency headline: With belief in our ability to construct a great socialist nation, a grand festival celebrating the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China: a lavish military display and a mass demonstration in the capital to mark the first year of the first Five-year Plan.

Slogans (in addition to the prescribed ‘five long lives’ mentioned in the above): Warmly celebrate the glorious achievements of the past five years! Celebrate the success of the First Meeting of the First Congress of the National People’s Congress! Celebrate the promulgation of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China: all power belongs to the people! Celebrate the election of the new leadership of the nation! Celebrate the victory of our nation’s peaceful foreign affairs policy! Liberate Taiwan and eliminate the Chiang Kai-shek Clique that has sold out the nation! Struggle to complete the first Five-year Plan for the reconstruction of the nation! Long live world peace! Long live Sino-Soviet friendship!

Other slogans that were sector specific included agriculture: Advance towards agricultural cooperatives! The arts: Improve our cultural level work hard at artistic creativity! Let one hundred flowers blossom; cast aside the old so that the new may flourish! Sports: Train the body to build the motherland! Train the body to defend the motherland! Train the body to defend peace!

Leaders’ portraits: Chen Yun’s portrait was revived in this year’s parade. Thus the line-up was: Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Chen Yun and Sun Yat-sen, as well as Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin.

1955

Officiating state leader: Peng Dehuai, vice-premier of the State Council and Minister of Defence.
Military commander: Yang Chengwu.

Soldiers under review: 10,300. The cavalry was no longer. The parade itself was curtailed to 50 minutes, the shortest of all such military displays.

New China News Agency headline: The worker-peasant-soldier forces show their hand, celebrating the sixth National Day of the People’s Republic of China. The capital hosts a grand military parade and mass march past. We will definitely liberate Taiwan.

Slogans (in addition to the prescribed ‘five long lives’ mentioned in the above): Long live the great unity of the peoples of China! Support the Five-year Plan! Work hard to increase production and reduce waste, struggle to fulfil the Five-year Plan! Work hard to fulfil the state construction plans for 1955! Welcome the high tide in agricultural co-operativization with extreme enthusiasm! We will definitely liberate Taiwan! Long live Marxism-Leninism! Long live the peaceful bloc of democratic socialist forces! We pay our respects to the people of the Soviet Union who have selflessly supported our national reconstruction, to the peoples of the fraternal states which have joined China in intimate friendship and to all peace-loving peoples of the world! Ban the use of atomic weapons!

Among the young student marchers the following slogan appeared: Prepare to undertake manual labour and defend the nation!

Chanted slogans: Prior to this National Day the leaders on the podium of Tiananmen Gate would call out, ‘Best wishes comrades!’, to which the marching soldiers would reply in unison, ‘Best wishes to the leaders!’ On this occasion, the chants were, ‘Long live the People’s Republic of China! Long live the Chinese Communist Party!, and Long live Chairman Mao!’ The soldiers shouted, ‘Long life! Long life! Long life!’

1956

Officiating state leader: Peng Dehuai, vice-premier of the State Council and Minister of Defence.
Military commander: Yang Chengwu.

Soldiers under review: 12,000.

New China News Agency headline: A solemn military parade, 550,000 people march. The people of the capital enthusiastically mark National Day: President Sukarno and Prime Minister Tanka Prasad Acharya [of Nepal] and representatives of the fraternal parties of various countries watch the parade.

Slogans (in addition to the prescribed ‘five long lives’): Celebrate the great victory of socialism! Cry for joy to celebrate the magnificent achievements of carrying out the First Five-year Plan! March towards the international standard! Struggle to complete the socialist transformation! Implement the policy of encouraging one hundred schools of thought to contend and work earnestly to realize the Twelve-year Plan for Scientific Research!

The leaders would generally watch the parade in silence, or call out unrehearsed slogans such as, ‘Hello comrades!’ or ‘Long live our younger comrades!’ (Both of these were used by Mao Zedong, presumably without irony.) This year the Beijing Mayor Peng Zhen chanted the following catchy phrases:

‘Long live comrade workers! Long live comrade peasants! Long live the comrade bureaucrats working in offices! Long live teacher and student comrades!’, and, finally, ‘Long live all the comrade citizens of the city!’

1957

Officiating state leader: Peng Dehuai, vice-premier of the State Council and Minister of Defence.
Military commander: Yang Chengwu.

Soldiers under review: 7,100, with the addition of bombers manufactured in imitation of Soviet originals.

New China News Agency headline: The sun shines on Tiananmen, red flags flutter throughout Beijing and the countless masses joyfully celebrate National Day. The leaders of our country and dignitaries from throughout the world review troops from the three services and a mass demonstration.

Slogans (in addition to the prescribed ‘five long lives’): Report back to the motherland with enormous examples of success! Celebrate the victory on the productive front of agriculture! Struggle dauntlessly and rebuild the country with hard work and frugality! Carry on the Anti-Rightist struggle to the end, and continue to pursue the rectification movement throughout the whole population! Science must serve socialism! Follow the Communist Party forever! Struggle to carry out the socialist line in the arts! Let one hundred flowers blossom and one hundred schools of thought contend!

Among the younger student marchers the following slogan-bearing placard appeared:

‘Be determined to be the first generation of educated peasants in New China!’

1958

Officiating state leader: Peng Dehuai, vice-premier of the State Council and Minister of Defence.
Military commander: Yang Chengwu.

Soldiers under review: 10,000.

New China News Agency headline: 600,000 people in the capital march to celebrate National Day. Chairman Mao reviews the glorious achievements of the Great Leap Forward. The three services and the militia demonstrate the militarization of all the people and their determination to defend the motherland.

Slogans (in addition to the prescribed ‘five long lives’): Surpass England and catch up with America; one day is worth twenty years! Mobilize the whole population to double steel production! Be determined to produce 10.7 million tons of steel! With grain as the general-in-command, production will leap foward! Wheat production is 800 billion tons, surpassing America! Cotton production has doubled and leapt into first place in the world! People’s Communes are good! Education must be in the service of politics; education and productive labour must be united! Ensure that the Twelve-year Plan for Scientific Research can be realized within five years! Militarize all the people, defend the motherland and establish militias! Manual labour and military service must be united; everyone should be a soldier, improve national defence and defend peace! Long live the socialist bloc led by the Soviet Union! Support the cause of Arab independence! Support the movements for national liberation in Asia, Africa and Latin-America! Get the hell out of Lebanon and Jordan, you Amero-English aggressors!

Leaders’ portraits: Chen Yun’s portrait disappeared again.

1959

Officiating state leader: Lin Biao, deputy-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party and Minister of Defence.
Military commander: Yang Yong.

Soldiers under review: 11,000. The parade lasted for 58 minutes.

New China News Agency headline: 700,000 people in front of Tiananmen Gate celebrate the victory of the General Line! Long live the Great Leap Forward! Long live the People’s Communes! The capital celebrates the tenth year since the founding of the People’s Republic of China with a major and solemn ceremony. Chairman Mao, Chairman Liu, Comrade Khrushchev and dignitaries from 87 countries take part in the grand event. Marshall Lin Biao reviews the three forces and issues an order to all the officers and soldiers as well as to the militia.

Slogans (in addition to the prescribed ‘five long lives’): The east wind overwhelms the west wind! Work hard, struggle upstream, build more, better and more efficient socialism faster! Long live the General Line! Long live the Great Leap Forward! Long live the People’s Communes! Pursue the movement to increase production and cut waste in an all-out and profound manner! Be determined to overfulfil the quota of producing 12 million tons of steel! Long live Sino-Soviet unity!

1969

On this occasion there was no formal review of troops, although there were representative squads from the three services of the People’s Liberation Army among the ranks of marchers in front of Tiananmen Gate during the mass demonstration.

New China News Agency headline: Our great leader Chairman Mao and his close comrade-in-arms Vice-chairman Lin Biao joined the masses of the capital and representatives present in Beijing to celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Chairman Mao is in excellent health and, smiling, waved warmly at everyone. Vice-chairman Lin Biao made an important address following which over 400,000 members of the army and the masses marched pass in formation, enthusiastically celebrating the National Day of the great People’s Republic of China.

There were numerous slogans on placards carried aloft by the marchers. They included:

We respectfully wish Chairman Mao boundless long life! Long life, long long life to our Great Teacher, Great Leader, Great Commander and Great Helmsman Chairman Mao! Long live ever-victorious Mao Zedong Thought! Long live the victory of Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line! Long live the great, glories and correct Chinese Communist Party!….The workers must command all! Long live the revolutionary committees! Earnestly carry out struggle-criticism-transform; further entrench the dictatorship of the proletariat! Grab tightly on to the great revolutionary criticism, and continue the socialist revolution to the end! Further deepen the mass movement to study and apply Mao Zedong Thought, and enhance the revolutionization of thought!… Grasp revolution, increase production, improve work and improve preparations for war! Prepare for war, prepare for famine, for the people! Let’s see who under heaven can defeat us! Fear neither hardship nor death! Be alert, defend the motherland; be prepared at all times to destroy all invaders!

And so on and so forth.

As on previous occasions another lengthy quotation from a speech by Mao was used as an unchantable slogan. It went:

‘People of the world unite to oppose all aggressive wars launched by Imperialism and Socialist-Imperialism, in particular they should oppose nuclear war. If such wars break out the people of the world should oppose this aggression with revolutionary warfare and they should prepare for this eventuality now!’

Leaders’ portraits: During the parade there were statues of Mao, huge photographs of Mao and Lin Biao seated together. Portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin featured on the flanks of Tiananmen Gate, while Sun Yat-sen’s picture appeared at the south of Tiananmen Square facing north.

1984

Officiating state leader: Deng Xiaoping, Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party.
Military commander: Qin Jiwei.

Soldiers under review: 10,400. New weapons including guided missiles and members of the armed militia, as well as female soldiers, featured in a parade that lasted for 60 minutes. There were 42 squads on the ground and four squadrons of air force planes in formation. It was reportedly the most impressive military review in the thirty-five year history of the People’s Republic.

New China News Agency headline: The solemn celebration of the thirty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China; a grand military parade and mass demonstration were held in the capital; Hu Yaobang, Deng Xiaoping, Zhao Ziyang, Li Xiannian, Chen Yun, Peng Zhen, Deng Yingchao, Xu Xiangqian, Nie Rongzhen, Wulanfu, as well as Prince Norodom Shanouk, Son Sann [from Cambodia], Khieu Samphan [the Khmer Rouge leader] and Hoang Van Hoan [a high-level defector from Vietnam] were among the dignitaries who joined with 500,000 soldiers and people in the capital to participate in the celebrations.

Slogans included: Long live the motherland, revitalize China! Realize the Four Modernizations and dare to aspire! Knowledge is wealth; science and technology are productive forces! Reunite the motherland, maintain world peace and oppose all aggression and hegemony!

An unscripted slogan appeared among a number of university students who held up a homemade greeting: ‘Hello, Xiaoping!’

Leaders’ portraits: there were portable statues of Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Liu Shaoqi and Zhu De; gigantic models of the published writings of Mao, Zhou, Liu, Zhu, as well as Deng Xiaoping and Chen Yun also featured. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin were also represented.

During this review the leader (Deng Xiaoping) greeted the troops from an open-roofed Red Flag limousine with the words, ‘Hello, comrades!’, to which they responded ‘Hello, leader!’. This was followed by, ‘Comrades, you have worked hard!’, to which the response was, ‘Serve the people!’

1999

Officiating state leader: Jiang Zemin, Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party. Military commander: Li Xinliang.

Soldiers under review: 11,000.

New China News Agency headline: The solemn celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China; a grand military parade and mass demonstration were held in the capital; Jiang Zemin reviewed the troops and made an important speech; Li Peng, Zhu Rongji, Li Ruihuan, Hu Jintao, Wei Jianxing and Li Lanqing joined with 500,000 soldiers and people to participate in the celebrations.

Slogans included (apart from the usual paeans to the state, the Party, the army and the unity of the peoples of China):

Raise high the great banner of Deng Xiaoping theory and advance on the new century! Open door and reform, science and education to build the nation, rush to the next century! National unity, one country two systems, reunite the motherland, peaceful development! Political stability, economic developments, cultural blossoming, social progress! Raise high the banner, carry the traditions forward, one heart and one mind, create greater glory! Pass political inspection, meet the military standard of toughness, a superior work style, clear standards, assurance of strength!

Leaders’ portraits: statues of Mao, Zhou, Liu and Zhu De were carried during the parade. A huge portrait of Deng Xiaoping was featured and a large photograph and statue of Jiang Zemin delivering the political report to the Fifteenth Party Congress was held aloft. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin made their routine appearance.

2009

Officiating state leader: Hu Jintao, Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party.

Military commander: Chen Bingde.

Soldiers to be reviewed: approximately 11,000.

Estimated duration: 73 minutes, including speeches. This parade will feature an unprecedented the variety of soldiers and armaments.

Leaders’ portraits: a contentious issue, and there was considerable internal debate about which leaders were to be represented and the appropriate scale for their images, in particular vis-à-vis the present incumbents. The celebrations marked the high point of Hu Jintao’s incumbency as Party, State and Army leader, while also showing due respect to earlier National Days in terms of scale, cost and themes. In light of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-2009, the 1 October 2009 National Day had to, by necessity, avoid excessive ostentation.

The civilian parade was designed by Zhang Heping, the man charged with the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the Para Olympics. As was the case in 2008, Zhang was assisted by the film and stage director Zhang Yimou and his creative team. The evening firework displays that crowned the day’s festivities were designed by the once avant-garde pyrotechnical artist Cai Guoqiang in collaboration with a group of specialists.

The guiding spirit of 1 October 2009 was best summed up in the ‘Propaganda and Education Outline for the Military Parade in the Capital on the Occasion of the Celebration of the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Founding of New China’, produced by the PLA Logistics Department and published in the PLA News on 10 February 2009. Among many other things, it stated that:

This military parade is a comprehensive display of the Party’s ability to rule and of the overall might of the nation. It has a profound political significance in that it bolsters confidence in the Party’s leadership and belief in socialism with Chinese characteristics… This grand parade is the first of its kind in the new century. It is a crucial manifestation of the recent victory of the people who have achieved the construction of an overall moderately prosperous society under the Party’s leadership and represents the realization of the great revival of the Chinese nation as a result of tireless struggle.