Wednesday, October 7, 2009

China at 60: Mao, Marx, and Military

China marked the 60th anniversary of Communist rule on Oct 1, with a big parade in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Almost a week after, analysts across are still trying to decipher the significance.

2009 is also the 20th anniversary of the student protests in Tiananmen Square. This is also the 20th year since the fall of the Berlin Wall, which signalled the beginning of the collapse of Soviet Union and the Communist empire.

With protests in Tibet last year, in Xinjiang province this year, and the drastic drop in Chinese exports due global economic slowdown, it was perhaps not a surprise that the Chinese leadership sought to return to their roots.

"Only socialism can save China and only reform and opening up can ensure the development of China, socialism and Marxism," said President Hu Jintao, who swapped his dark business suits for the charcoal-grey button-up tunic favoured by Mao Zedong, reported the Financial Times.
In the Olympics opening ceremony last year, film director Zhang Yimou was able to inject style and imagination into this tradition to fashion a vision of a modern China - a sort of hi-tech and creative authoritarianism. In contrast, Thursday's parade represented a retreat into Communist slogan and kitsch. Many of the floats looked like relics from the 1950s, with mottos such as "Socialism is Great".
The commemoration of the Communist revolution was an annual feature in the first decade after Mao took power. After the Party marked the occasion in a big way only on the 25th and 50th anniversary. No doubt China today is very different from the days of Mao. At the same time, while showcasing the power and glory of the revolution, the parade also ended up highlighting the deep undercurrents. The People's Republic, celebrated the occasion, sans its people!
central Beijing was completely deserted after unprecedented security measures kept the public away and ensured no unexpected incidents ruined the parade. Ordinary citizens were told to watch the show on television and blocked from getting anywhere near the festivities.
I could not but think of all the official parades in India, during various times of strife and conflict, where either people came to fill the stands despite security threats, or on other occasions, officials went out of the way to try and get people to attend.

The contrast was particularly glaring, when one remembers the modern, high tech, and synchronised brilliance that was on display at the opening of the Beijing Olympics just one year ago.
The celebrations began with a military parade of goose-stepping soldiers that showed off 52 new weapon systems, including what the state new agency called the "trump card", an anti-ship ballistic missile. Chinese fighter jets flew over Beijing in bright blue skies free from the thick smog of the past two days.
The military were followed by a civilian procession of 180,000 performers, grouped around floats representing all the country's provinces, its important industries and key concepts such as 'socialist democracy'.
The content of the pageant was a visual reminder of the contradictions inherent in modern China, as it moved swiftly from paeans to Marxism, Mao Zedong thought and socialism to lauding the nation's economic rise and the unleashing of market forces over the past three decades. (Reported the Financial Times.)
Another report in the Financial Times, reminded the readers
Sixty years ago, few would have believed Mao Zedong's Communist party could have come so far. It owes its survival to its ability to adapt. Mao took the country down several blind alleys. Millions died through famine in the Great Leap Forward or were brutalised in the Cultural Revolution. Deng Xiaoping loosened the state's hold on the economy, unleashing China's extraordinary potential. But the party never loosened its grip on power. When students demonstrating in Tiananmen Square threatened to spark widespread rebellion, Deng had no hesitation in sending in the troops.
Xingyuan brought these two items from Financial Times to my notice.

1 comment:

  1. for india china will always be the big fearful neighbour