I love a parade

29beijing3_600-v2

A total must-read – the NY Times on the 60th anniversary preparations. Anal-retentiveness has been totally redefined:

Performers have been carefully screened. Even the workers who are decorating the city with tens of millions of flowerpots had to undergo “political inspection,” according to news reports. Soldiers have practiced endless hours to hold their rifles at precisely the same level. Photos show their instructors holding threads as rifle guides, or sticking needles in soldiers’ shirt collars, pointed at their necks, to correct poor posture.

They have trained to stand motionless for a solid hour, to refrain from swaying during the second hour and not to collapse after three hours, reported Xinhua, the state-run news agency. They have been schooled in shouting phrases in perfect unison: “Serve the people!” and “Hello, senior leader!” They are also expected not to blink for 40 seconds at a time.

Chinese news media have reported that the government has limited parade participants in Beijing’s celebration to 187,000 — at least 300,000 fewer than in the last decennial celebration. Performers have been carefully screened. Even the workers who are decorating the city with tens of millions of flowerpots had to undergo “political inspection,” according to news reports.

Mental-health professionals have been called in to help those whose performance is not up to snuff. As of Sept. 12, 1,300 soldiers had received counseling, Xinhua reported.

And then there’s the paranoia concerns over security.

Knife sales have been banned in at least some stores. Beijing’s international airport will be closed Thursday for three hours. Along the parade route, the authorities have forbidden parade-watchers from opening windows or standing on balconies.

Three journalists from the Japanese Kyodo news agency said that when they stood on a hotel balcony to cover a Sept. 18 parade rehearsal, the authorities stormed into the room and assaulted them. A spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the journalists ignored explicit instructions not to report the event, apparently out of concern that details of the spectacle would be revealed.

Another, more provocative article I read today, paints an even more bizarre picture:

Black-clad Swat teams of police will be deployed at key intersections and thousands of agents will stage a security clampdown exceeding anything seen for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Dissidents have been shut up at home or arrested. Police have banned peasants from coming to the capital to present their grievances as petitions, a tradition that dates back thousands of years.

Counter-terrorist squads, backed up by informers, are prowling the districts where Muslims from China’s restive far west live. Peaceful Tibetan Buddhists are also under surveillance in their incense-filled temples. Internet users say censorship has never been so restrictive. Facebook and Twitter are among the sites that have been blocked.

At the last parade 10 years ago, diplomats were able to watch from balconies in their compound. This time residents have been warned that if they step out they may be shot.

“We must abide by Deng Xiaoping’s instruction that China must be under the leadership of the Communist party,” declared the People’s Daily on Friday. “If this fundamental principle is altered, China will go backwards, split and fall into chaos.”

Whatever.

I can kind of see doing this for the Olympic Games, which were, of course, a magnet for many thousands of visitors who had never been to China before. But the 60th anniversary celebration of the birth of the PRC is something of a mystery to many China watchers I know, all of whom have essentially the same reaction to the big day, namely, Who cares? I understand, any anniversary date ending with a 5 or a 0 is seen as a big deal in China (and in many other countries, though usually to a lesser extent; in the US, the 50th and 100th and 200th anniversaries of the birth of America, for instance, were super-big deals, while the anniversaries in-between were not), and I understand it from China’s perspective. But are they aware, on the other end, how mystifying this whole exercise looks to those on the outside? I know, they don’t really care about that, and maybe they shouldn’t. This is their party. But I do hope readers realize why Americans write about the preparations and the event itself with an air of amazement. The 60th anniversary of the PRC doesn’t mean much to anyone outside China, especially since the principles on which the nation was founded in 1949 have been drastically diluted if not discarded altogether.

The aggravation that this celebration has generated in terms of getting a visa, in terms of disruptions of daily life in Beijing and in terms of general anniversary-fatigue are nearly all that the foreigners I know bring up when the anniversary is mentioned. (This was true six months ago as well.) Along with a general sense of mystification: What other country would put so much money and effort into a parade like this, in the midst of an economic crisis? And let me reiterate, I do understand from the Chinese perspective why they are doing this, even if I believe they are not going to score many points in the court of global public opinion with this event. Then again, just as with the Olympics, the parade isn’t being held for the outside world. It is being held by China, it’s about China, and it’s for China. They don’t care if we’re pissed about not getting our visa. And I understand that.

redstar

Note: Link via a tweet by this blogger.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 38 Comments

So what are the chances of being able to travel from Haidian to downtown with a camera and actually getting anything memorable?

It’s my first time, so I have no idea what to expect in terms of “thronginess”

September 29, 2009 @ 12:36 pm | Comment

Sounds like total Western media propaganda.

September 29, 2009 @ 12:43 pm | Comment

Chris, since I’m out of town I’m the wrong one to ask.

Merp, do you think the information in the two articles is false? And do you think it’s as propagandistic as this, from People’s Daily?

“We must abide by Deng Xiaoping’s instruction that China must be under the leadership of the Communist party,” declared the People’s Daily on Friday. “If this fundamental principle is altered, China will go backwards, split and fall into chaos.”

Just curious.

On a propaganda level of 1 to 10, which would you rank higher?

September 29, 2009 @ 12:50 pm | Comment

One thing is for sure. The powers that be are nervous. It is a strange birthday celebration.

September 29, 2009 @ 1:25 pm | Comment

If there is anything that the people in China can do better than other people and that can boost their self-esteem, it is to turn human into sports machines and parade robots.

It seems that now Beijing is under martial law again.

September 29, 2009 @ 1:37 pm | Comment

China don’t mind being last as long as we doesn’t have to turn human into killer zombies and lifeless android that march on land that not belong to us.

September 29, 2009 @ 2:21 pm | Comment

That Ran post is perplexing. There are zombies in Tibet?

September 29, 2009 @ 2:48 pm | Comment

Of course there are, now mostly seek asylum in India.

September 29, 2009 @ 3:06 pm | Comment

Heh. I was at some of the celebrations for the 30th birthday, in 1979, including a crazy show in Worker’s Stadium, with an amazing card demonstration thing. I have slides of it.

I have to say, though a part of me would love to see this, the other part is really glad that I’m not going to BJ until November.

September 29, 2009 @ 3:18 pm | Comment

Kevin: There are zombies in Tibet?

Ouch!!

Lisa, agreed. I suspect that even if you were there, you wouldn’t be able to see very much, except on TV. I’m delighted to wait until November.

September 29, 2009 @ 3:46 pm | Comment

There are zombies in Tibet?

They never made it there. Deported with their Free Tibet banners.

September 29, 2009 @ 4:00 pm | Comment

Hey some of these poster here got serious issues. LOL.

September 29, 2009 @ 4:05 pm | Comment

Heybro, you must be new here.

September 29, 2009 @ 4:08 pm | Comment

Since when did Beijing hire Kim Jong Il to do their event planning? I can only imagine the concept meetings conducted by some mid-level bureaucrat where the ideas for this “celebration” were tossed around. “We must show the world (or show the people……errr…or at least show ourselves) that ours is the most harmonious harmony in the world. Imagine thousands of perfectly matching Chinese in complete harmonious harmony as they move as one, speak as one and look the same. It will be glorious. Maybe we will be rewarded with the opportunity to sell land rights from under some hutongs to property developers (oh…no…that won’t work because there aren’t any left). Ooooh, ooooh, I know, maybe I can have a bigger villa in Zhongnanhai, take a few more trips abroad, pad my bank account with euros or dollars….. So are we unanimous?”

September 29, 2009 @ 5:25 pm | Comment

The first time I saw this post title I though it was about Berlin’s love parade!!

=:-0

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Parade

September 29, 2009 @ 5:51 pm | Comment

Make love not war :-D

September 29, 2009 @ 5:52 pm | Comment

“The love Parade has its roots in the spirit of a changing Europe. In 1989, it was first celebrated four months before the demolition of the Berlin Wall.”

Maybe after the fall of the CCP we may have a love parade in Beijing. No more tanks needed in TA Square…

September 29, 2009 @ 5:56 pm | Comment

Richard, there are zombies all over the US.

http://www.l4d.com/home.html

Not_a_Sinophile

Since when did Beijing hire Kim Jong Il to do their event planning?

During the celebrations, Hu and Wen will do a duet of “I’m so ronery”.

September 29, 2009 @ 5:58 pm | Comment

Did I sense some “bitterness” here? Some people don’t like parade (like I don’t) but others may be fond of it, so the government threw one. At least the PLA didn’t parade in Bagdad – what’s your problem then?

Of course the security must be tight, especially after the bloody muslim terrorists stabbed 197 people dead recently (may their souls go to hell). Next time you go to Israel you know what “tight security” is – I personally think China has a lot to learn from Israel.

September 29, 2009 @ 7:11 pm | Comment

There’s always numbnuts out there who wants to make a grand spectacle by crashing into Beijing’s parade. These Western propagandists errr journalists writing these provocative articles is basically an invite for ‘martyrs’ if they decided to ruin the parade. Just wait until 10/2 when the parade is over, the only thing NY times will write about some Foreigner who ‘got thru police security’ unfurled a ‘free tibet’ t-shirt and was mobbed by the police.

September 29, 2009 @ 10:13 pm | Comment

—————–
Merp, do you think the information in the two articles is false? And do you think it’s as propagandistic as this, from People’s Daily?

“We must abide by Deng Xiaoping’s instruction that China must be under the leadership of the Communist party,” declared the People’s Daily on Friday. “If this fundamental principle is altered, China will go backwards, split and fall into chaos.”

Just curious.

On a propaganda level of 1 to 10, which would you rank higher?
—————–

Unfortunately, or fortunately for Chinese people, what People’s Daily said is 100% true. So it’s not propaganda.

September 30, 2009 @ 12:01 am | Comment

By the time NYT gives a medal to China, China must have gone seriously wrong.

Wasn’t Gorbachev awarded the biggest medal in your house for dismantling its own country?

September 30, 2009 @ 12:03 am | Comment

Pug, I disagree – they will cover the parade in some detail, not quite as complete as last year’s Opening Ceremony, but it will be substantial. Place bets? Police security may be part of their stories – it is extarordinary, after all. But that won’t be the main point of focus.

The fact that propaganda has elements of truth doesn’t make it not propaganda, zhaole.

Oia, no bitterness. just some wonder about the warning they will shoot people who come out on their balcony. That’s interesting, no matter how you want to argue it.

September 30, 2009 @ 12:28 am | Comment

Richard,

The shooting story is pure non-sense because it defies common sense – the CCP won’t shoot people who dare to come out on their balcony that day even for the simple reason that this would ruin the day. Use your brain, would you?

Even if they do, there is nothing wrong about it – bad rules are still rules and they warned you of the consequence. The same thing holds true for what happened twenty years ago. The martial law was declared well in advance. I was there with full intention to overthrew the government and we failed. I gambled and I failed – I accept that, unlike many whining losers out there.

September 30, 2009 @ 12:54 am | Comment

I guess you are going to delete my post above, would you Richard?

Sorry if I offended your delicate liberal conscience.

By the way, William Safire just past away. Any comments? (I think he is a honourable man)

September 30, 2009 @ 12:57 am | Comment

I agree it defies common sense. But defying common sense is not unprecedented when it comes to making the party look good. Maybe they wpn’t shoot. But the fact that they issued the announcement that they would is the news.

Even if they do, there is nothing wrong about it – bad rules are still rules and they warned you of the consequence.

You sir, are the dream citizen of the one-party system.

And no, I don’t delete your comments. I do keep them on the “wait” list for approval based on your history so they may be delayed. Apologies in advance for any inconvenience this may cause you.

September 30, 2009 @ 12:58 am | Comment

Richard,

My point is simple – if I want to revolt, I won’t observe any rules and I would be fully prepared to accept the consequences, which I did twenty years ago. Some day I may rise again if I see opportunity – I just don’t whine and don’t expect leniency from my enemy (I’ll show none to them).

There is a good article (in Chinese) about this – “請願勿造反,造反勿請願”

September 30, 2009 @ 1:27 am | Comment

” I just don’t whine and don’t expect leniency from my enemy (I’ll show none to them).”

Such bitterness….

September 30, 2009 @ 4:27 am | Comment

Hong Qi, you’re out again. 88

September 30, 2009 @ 5:09 am | Comment

This time residents have been warned that if they step out they may be shot.

I’d like you or the NYT to provide a source for this, the original Chinese regulation or document that says this.

And DON’t YOU DARE tell me this is unimportant. This is an extraordinary charge put up by the NYT, the paper of records, they better back it up.

Journalistic integrity my ass, randomly putting these outrageous statements WITHOUT ANY SOURCE.

September 30, 2009 @ 5:45 am | Comment

I guess if you’d read the post you’d know the NYT never said this. Try again.

September 30, 2009 @ 6:17 am | Comment

???

This time residents have been warned that if they step out they may be shot.

Which residents? How many residents? Warned by whom? Warned in what way? Verbal? Written? Law? Document? Regulation? Who is the witness? Where is the source? Did the journalist himself hear it personally? Was he warned personally?

Following this logic, NYT tomorrow can say “residents have been warned that if they step out they may be raped by the police”. “residents have been warned that if they do not watch the celerbation on TV they’ll jailed.”. “residents have been warned that if they host a foreinger in their house on Oct 1, their entire family will be sent to labor camps”.

And if challenged, you can always say “Oh well, WE didn’t say it”. WE were just relaying what we HEARD.

Where’s the NYT’s journalistic standard?

September 30, 2009 @ 6:30 am | Comment

“We must show the world (or show the people……errr…or at least show ourselves) that ours is the most harmonious harmony in the world. Imagine thousands of perfectly matching Chinese in complete harmonious harmony as they move as one, speak as one and look the same.

I’m guessing the parades cost as much as a big budget Hollywood film. Though it’s probably greater in entertainment value and moral substance.

September 30, 2009 @ 6:43 am | Comment

The NYT never said that, JiuLing. That was a UK paper. Read carefully.

I called the Times of London piece “provocative” because it’s full of scary details that I haven’t seen elsewhere, and I knew it would provoke skepticism, and maybe it should. Not sure where the reporter got the information on the balconies, but it’s not at all inconceivable if they’ve gone apeshit over security, as seems to be the case, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The balconies would provide the single vantage point from which to fire a shot, since the rooftops and surrounding areas will all be secured. Of course, the way the reporter expressed the concerns with security is, as I said, provocative.

September 30, 2009 @ 6:56 am | Comment

@ecodelta,

“Such bitterness….”

Yes I was bitter twenty years ago, but I’ve grown up and gotten over it.

Wang Shi, the owner of Wanke Group – China’s biggest property developer today, was there twenty years ago (later escaped arrest and flew to Shenzhen). He has gotten over it and found a business empire.

Those whining losers didn’t and that’s why they are still losers today.

September 30, 2009 @ 11:27 am | Comment

“Though it’s probably greater in entertainment value and moral substance.”

Only if you’ve been on a diet of CCP Kool Aid.

To contain moral substance the parade would need to promote ideology that went a little further than ‘submit to the will of the party – or else!’

Don’t you think, Mr Merp?

September 30, 2009 @ 11:48 am | Comment

@oiasunset
“Those whining losers didn’t and that’s why they are still losers today.”
Not so much of a losers. It is quite possible that China would not have open so much without that… “incident”. That is their victory and live even today.

That the issue is so much blocked in today’s china means that the powers that be are still quite afraid of such losers.

Not surprised that some who participated there have achieved some good positions. Quite a bit of those that were there were among the best young people a country may wish to have.

A country would be really great when it no longer needs to crush the idealistic though naive spirit of their own young people.

My regards to you.

September 30, 2009 @ 2:36 pm | Comment

Female soldiers with pink uniforms, mini-skirt and high white boots? :-O

http://tinyurl.com/yd9gwst

What would Mao think of it?

They look nice though, but not so easygoing like IDF female soldiers;-)

http://tinyurl.com/a49n46

Beauty contest anyone?

October 2, 2009 @ 2:36 pm | Comment

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