Beijing is preparing for a birthday party. A BIG birthday party. The mother of all birthday parties! On October 1, China will turn 60. But wait, you say…..doesn't China have a long and glorious history of 5000 years? How can a country that's 5000 years old be celebrating her 60th birthday? Remember…nothing is as it seems. China as a civilization is indeed 5000 years old, but the modern nation-state called The People's Republic of China only dates back to October 1, 1949. This is what the county is celebrating.
By all accounts they are planning a party in Beijing that will dwarf the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in scope and glitz. The climax of the festivities will be a giant parade through the heart of Beijing, down Chang An Avenue past Tiananmen Square, that will feature tanks, rockets, singers, dancers, "happy ethnics," and goose-stepping soldiers in blue mini-skirts. Ten years ago these female soldiers were dressed in red mini-skirts, and were the definite hit of the parade. One report I read said there will be 200,000 participants.
Just because it is celebrating the founding of a People's Republic doesn't mean that ordinary people are involved or welcome to watch the parade, or even come to Beijing. They've thrown a security cordon around town making that has effectively turned it into an armed fortress. Armed soldiers are on patrol, Marxist Mamas have been re-deputized, and flying things (kites, birds) have been banned. Only invited guests (high level government and party officials( will be allowed to actually view the parade. Everyone else has to stay home and watch it on TV.
This weekend they will be conducting the third full dress rehearsal for the parade, and to ensure secrecy have ordered everyone living in the neighborhood near the staging area to leave for the day or stay away from their windows. I have a friend who lives along the route of the parade, and they've already received a long list of new regulations for the next 2 weeks (no visitors, no peeking out windows, no taking pictures).
One of my favorite websites, The Big Picture, has compiled a fantastic collection of recent photographs of preparations and rehearsals for the big party. Click away and be amazed.
Will I be going, you might wonder? Actually, no. I'm in Minnesota for 3 weeks and will be enjoying the fall colors along the north shore of Lake Superior. Sorry, China, but the red maples of Lutsen beat waving red flags any day. I'll buy the DVD when I get back.