Report on the October 1 parade from Beijing

Got this email from a friend and thought it was good enough to share. He has lived in China for about 10 years and never wants to live anywhere else. You can love China and be critical at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive, and in fact I’d argue they go hand in glove. His email:

Subject : The Party Here In Beijing Today

Hi,

“….Hey what a party, hey what a show…..” Miss Saigon =>

‘Thought I would share what happened today here in Beijing, it was a 1st for me & you won’t get this side of it from the news in Europe and the Americas.

This morning in Tiananmen Square there was a colossal military parade followed by a “normal” / civilian parade – Chinese style, which means big and over-the-top (100,000 performers.) Watch the news reports, I doubt in the US or Europe it will get more than 60 seconds of replay, certainly not the 2 1/2 hours we watched live here on TV.

Yes, me and absolutely everyone I know in Beijing, and everyone who knows anyone else living in Beijing could only watch it on TV. My office is right next to Tiananmen, perfect viewing location – except that every building within viewing sight of this was evacuated yesterday and searched with sniffing dogs. No one knows anyone who got the special invitation to watch it live. You will notice / see on the broadcast news there are no people lining the Chang An Boulevard parade route, and the VIP spectators were specially picked (and I assume trained) for this event. At most a few hundred people, you can see them all boxed in front of the Forbidden City. None of the foreign journalists I know here were even allowed to attend and cover this event. Which is a bit strange for China these days, and for an event of this magnitude.

The preparations for this have gone on for 1 year. Cost? No one will ever know. They completely re-did the entire square, boulevard and surrounding roads, neighborhood facades, etc. which were already (and alway have been) the best in the city, and which were just all redone for the Olympics last year. Going to the office each day I kept thinking, “Why don’t you use this money to build 100 hospitals or schools in the poor areas of this nation?” I said exactly that yesterday having lunch with my Chinese friends who are from Beijing, they said, “Agree, but we can’t say that.”

Now this is funny/interesting; there was a pre-parade talk show (local TV) I watched this morning during which 2 top military generals were interviewed and commented that this miltary parade was “planned in a frugal and environmentally friendly manner.” I don’t recall Gen. Swartzkof saying anything like that when I was in DC for the military parade to welcome home the US troupes from the Gulf War. I certainly didn’t see that when I was in Paris for the 200th anniversary of the F rench revolution – I think les Francais are a little more “green” concious than us Americans and certainly more than here – I know that to be true. The point is, it seems public opinion does play into the rhetoric of this administration. Their comment was definitely not ad hoc.

What struck me as absolutely the most bizarre was the president’s speech referring to the success of ….(get this) Marxism. Who’s Hu’s speech writer? If you could see behind him reviewing the troupes standing up through the roof of his (hong qi = red flag brand) limo, that’s Oriental Plaza – a luxury shopping center. Street level (hidden by the tanks) are Burberry, Gucci, Tiffany, and all the other top foreign (non-Marxist) luxury brand shops you have ever heard of. (NB: Each have at least 5 locations just in this one city! And, numerous others all around China.) Who’s Marx again??? Is he referring to Groucho? Barbara Marx (Frank Sinatra’s last wife?) I was just losing it to connect the dots at that point.

There was a heavy emphasis on the important role of the Chinese minorities and women in this society. The supersonic jets were flown by women training in their space program, their was reference to a Chinese woman being the 1st lady to walk on the moon. Great, admirable, totally support that. None of the officials are from the local minorities or are women. The most important woman formerly in the leadership, Madame Wu Yi, I could not see on the dais. (NB: Her old boss, Pres. Jiang was there – with brown hair, go figure? He’s from Shanghai, that explains everything.) I heard she refused to participate – FYI, she brought China into the WTO. At least in the US, we can say we have come beyond that. We Americans have women & minorities in power now, and they seem quite widely respected. When will La France have a Mssr. Mohamed, Le President?

It was a fascinating build-up during several weeks of SWAT police in tanks on Tiananmen Square going to work each day. Tiananmen Square with tanks doesn’t exactly excite me. Yes, you know why.

To put things globally in perspective, we had a very expensive innauguration for President Obama during which we (the people) are told is the “worst financial crisis in US history.” But, I heard…”the people” showed up unabated in masses to be there….

I do love living / working here in Beijing, when life here is normal. Nothing about this day (or time leadin up to this) was normal. The Olympics were a breeze compared to this. What’s next for Beijing???

______________

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: 25 Comments

Who is Marx? ask people in wall street.

October 2, 2009 @ 3:12 am | Comment

I caught a glimpse of Wu Yi on the dais during the parade. Hope someone can confirm for me.

No Zhu Rongji, though.

…Or a photo of Hua Guofeng during the crazy cavalcade of leadership portraits. Ahem.

October 2, 2009 @ 6:38 am | Comment

Zhu Rongji was there ALL BLACK–black sunglasses, black suit, and black ties. take a look at the following picture: http://bit.ly/zhurongji

October 2, 2009 @ 6:53 am | Comment

Check out the Guardian time-lapse video:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2009/oct/01/china-national-day-timelapse

October 2, 2009 @ 6:58 am | Comment

That is a great link FOARP – I had posted it on FB and twitter earlier today.

October 2, 2009 @ 8:21 am | Comment

Cheers…I stand corrected. He’s looking quite old these days…could use a little Jiang Zemin brown bomber special sauce on the comb-over…

I like the sleeping guy on the right.

October 2, 2009 @ 8:42 am | Comment

I would say it was more red than green.

October 2, 2009 @ 8:53 am | Comment

Damn, it looks like ALL of them are asleep.

October 2, 2009 @ 8:53 am | Comment

Did Prez. Hu really mentioned Marxism? Then it could be any Marxism, Groucho Marxism or Barbara Marxism, etc. No matter which Marxism Mr. Hu referred to last night, it has to be adulterated with a lot of Chinese characteristics, which include, but are not limited to, love your leaders as if they are an emperor, love your country as if it is your mother and father, be proud to accept any injustice imposed on you by your motherland, despise those who are free to challenge their leaders, believe that democracy doesn’t exist,…

October 2, 2009 @ 10:02 am | Comment

I was almost asleep as well, and only watched for a few minutes. The People’s Daily website was kind enough to bless those of us without CCTV with a live feed, and I watched Hu drive down Chang’an saying “tongzhimen xingku le” over and over again like a broken robot. Then he turned around and said the same exact thing. I stopped watching at that point. I assume I missed some massive missiles and some smiling dancing minorities, which is unfortunate.
A somewhat funny sidenote: earlier in the day (or rather evening for me here in the US), one of the breaking news headlines on the People’s Daily Website was “Military vehicles drive towards Tiananmen”, which could clearly be read in two ways, one very much unintended yet historically real. I guess the PLA were carefully trained to ensure that they did not confuse their orders yesterday around Tiananmen with their orders 20 years ago… talk about raining on a parade!

October 2, 2009 @ 1:46 pm | Comment

I was almost asleep as well, and only watched for a few minutes. The People’s Daily website was kind enough to bless those of us without CCTV with a live feed, and I watched Hu drive down Chang’an saying “tongzhimen xingku le” over and over again like a broken robot. Then he turned around and said the same exact thing. I stopped watching at that point. I assume I missed some massive missiles and some smiling dancing minorities, which is unfortunate.
A somewhat funny sidenote: earlier in the day (or rather evening for me here in the US), one of the breaking news headlines on the People’s Daily Website was “Military vehicles drive towards Tiananmen”, which could clearly be read in two ways, one very much unintended yet historically real. I guess the PLA were carefully trained to ensure that they did not confuse their orders yesterday around Tiananmen with their orders 20 years ago… talk about raining on a parade!
Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

October 2, 2009 @ 7:22 pm | Comment

Am I THE ONLY ONE to think there was something a little bit gay about the whole “Tongzhimen Xingkule”/limousine thing? No, I genuinely don’t mean this as a homophobic thing.

October 2, 2009 @ 11:37 pm | Comment

Oh – and is it my imagination or did Dan Chung use tilt-shift on that film to give it that extra-special toy-town feel?

October 3, 2009 @ 1:16 am | Comment

Check out here for an example of how tilt-shift can fake miniature scale with a real-life-sized subject:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilt-shift#Miniature_faking

October 3, 2009 @ 1:20 am | Comment

There is a rule that one of the vice prime-mister has to be minority. In current government, 回良玉 (Hui Liang Yu) is the one. He is Hui Zu (Ethnic Hui).

Also, CCP also take it very serious to always keep a certain portion of minorities in the congress or top CCP committee. For example: Ismail Tiliwaldi, who is Uyghur.

October 4, 2009 @ 11:55 am | Comment

Regarding women, normally all cities has at least one female as the vice mayor. But I don’t think number of how many woman in the top level government has anything to do with the equal rights between man and woman.

The equal rights between man and woman could be represent in certain levels. For example, woman are normally more dominate in Chinese families in cities. And I know all Shanghai man will strongly agree with that. Sigh…Chinese man need equal rights…woman are too dominate.

October 4, 2009 @ 12:05 pm | Comment

Correct my previous comments as below:

Regarding women, normally all cities has at least one female as the vice mayor. But I don’t think number of how many woman in the top level government has anything to do with the equal rights between man and woman.

The equal rights between man and woman could be different in certain levels. For example, woman are normally more dominate in Chinese families in cities. And I know all Shanghai man will strongly agree with that. Sigh…Chinese man need equal rights…woman are too dominate.

October 4, 2009 @ 12:06 pm | Comment

Zhu Rongji is greatly admired in China. I think lots of people are upset that CCTV did not gave him more footage. Instead, Jiang Zemin got a lot of footage, and I dare to say, he is not as popular as Zhu Rongji.

October 5, 2009 @ 12:26 am | Comment

Dan Chung’s website shows the way news media photographers / videographers were configured on tribunes for coverage of the parade.

http://www.dslrnewsshooter.com/2009/10/01/shooting-chinas-60th-anniversary-parade-with-the-7d-5dmkii-and-nikon-d700/

Bob

October 7, 2009 @ 10:34 am | Comment

I saw that Bob – absolutely gorgeous.

October 7, 2009 @ 11:32 am | Comment

Richard,

Do you know that there is a special term in Chinglish for this kind of article (or person)? The term is “zhuangbility”.

October 14, 2009 @ 10:22 pm | Comment

We might like or dislike it, but the fact seems to be quite clear that China is currently in ascending plane. The Chinese people are more confident and you can see them travelling almost all over the world, pretty much like the Japanese in the 80′s (but I don’t see them anymore now; replaced by Korean, Chinese and Spanish speakers). And, you can also see the wallstreet guys, lawyers, accountants, educators, etc are piling, and sort of step over each other, to get their businesses in China. In contrast, the US, representing the free world, if there is anything called “free world” anymore, is heavily indebted. Very sad indeed! Does it mean free people are incompetent to exercise sound judgement?
I think it is time for intellectuals from the US to stop criticizing other countries (simply put, no more time for word masturbation), and time to address seriously domestic issues. We can’t even resolve the medical issues, let alone a bigger one like national debt or the education system.
I often wonder if the US is on a descending, standing-still, or still ascending plane?

October 26, 2009 @ 7:44 am | Comment

The US is screwed for several years to come. The reason: debt, and the restrictions that come with it. China is cash-rich, and it is also becoming gold-rich. China’s sphere of influence is growing rapidly while ours is declining. I think we’ll come back (someday), and China may never rise to the level of US development and quality of life. But the pendulum has definitely started to turn.

October 26, 2009 @ 8:13 am | Comment

@Richard
I currently live in Greater Boston area. They can’t even unseat a mayor who has been there for 16 or 20 years because of the cozy arrangement with the unions and real-estate developers. The guy is so old and can’t even walk straight anymore. The subway system fails miserably compared with China, let alone with Singapore, Japan, England, Germany, and France. Potholes are just about everywhere. The city doesn’t even have any intelligent traffic lights. Yet, this is the city famous of higher learning institutions and intelligent people. It only tells that we can’t organize anymore; greed and self-interest have gone over the limit.
Now, everyday news media questions if capitalism is dead. So depressing! I hope we are not heading south for 15 years while China heads north.

October 26, 2009 @ 10:05 pm | Comment

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