China readies missiles, magpies for 35th anniversary spectacle
Chinese military forces will be on center stage next week when the People's Republic of China celebrates its 35th anniversary. At a mass spectacle Monday in Peking's Tian An Men Square, China's People's Liberation Army will be on public display for the first time in 25 years.
Besides some 70,000 soldiers and sailors from the PLA, the National Day Parade will include tens of thousands of workers, peasants, schoolchildren, and university students as well as magpies, floats, and a flyover by the Chinese Air Force. China's paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, is expected to speak while the nation's other top leaders look on from the reviewing stands beneath the refurbished Tower of Tian An Men gate and under a giant portrait of Mao Tse-tung.
This will be the first National Day celebration since the mid-70s and since Deng Xiaoping triumphed in the Communist Party Central Committee in late 1978.
The public will see in the parade a cross section of the PLA forces and China's latest conventional and strategic weapons, according to reports published here. The military is expected to display its most advanced fighter aircraft, tanks, self-propelled guns, and rocket launchers as well as a variety of missiles, including its intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The PLA's weaponry generally lags behind the rest of the advanced world, according to Gen. Qin Jiwei, commander of the Peking military region of the PLA and commander in chief of the military parade. But compared with the last public military review - during the 10th-anniversary National Day Parade in 1959 - China has made remarkable progress, General Qin told the New China News Agency earlier this month.
''During the coming parade, people will have a chance to see the changes that have taken place in China's armed forces (since 1959),'' he said. All the equipment to be shown in the parade was designed and manufactured in China, according to Qin. The PLA also is due to appear for the first time in public in its newly designed uniforms which replace its baggy green outfits.
The capital, indeed the country as a whole, has been preparing for the National Day celebrations for months.
Last spring, young workers in factories and offices around Peking were selected to participate in the parade and began an exercise program which, by late summer, had advanced to daily drills accompanied by martial music.
All summer, in quiet corners of Peking's parks, dance groups have been rehearsing for the mass dance party to be held in the 125-acre Tian An Men Square the evening after the parade.
Hundreds of thousands of potted flowers in full bloom appeared on Peking streets last week, and various construction projects around the city seem to have been timed for completion at the end of September. Festivities also are planned in other cities and localities throughout the country, though none so massive as those in the nation's capital. Peking's celebration will be broadcast on the central TV network for several hundred million viewers.
One show stopper will be a flock of trained magpies released from a float and called back by whistles. Monday evening, several dozen colored lasers will light up the sky. Then there are the fireworks, the giant neon lights blazing abbreviated slogans in Chinese characters, and the obligatory portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin in addition to Mao himself. The English-language edition of Deng Xiaoping's selected works is due to appear this week, and the first four volumes of Lenin's complete works, translated into Chinese, will be released on Oct. 1.
Despite a warning against extravagance in the celebration that appeared in the official People's Daily newspaper last weekend, that word does seem to describe the preparations. One Chinese observer estimated that the government was spending between 200 and 300 yuan ($85 and $130) for each participant. Apparently every worker and student participant has received a new set of Western-style clothes and footwear for the occasion.
About 500,000 people, military and civilian, are expected to participate in the day's activities, about 200,000 less than in 1959. One explanation for the absence of showy public parades and rallies during the past eight years may be the current government's attempts to distance itself from the style and methods of the ultra-leftists ''gang of four'' and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Mao was fond of mass rallies, and during the frenzied heyday of the Cultural Revolution he held some half-dozen rallies of the Red Guards in Tian An Men Square in addition to the annual spectacles.
In denouncing the policies of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping has shunned the manipulative mass campaigns so typical of the era in favor of more managerial methods of government. And several years ago, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party ruled that National Day will be celebrated only at five-year intervals.
The rallying of the nation next week serves to draw attention to what Deng has accomplished with his emphasis on modernizing the economy and, more recently , on opening China to the outside world. It underscores the successes achieved so far and may be an attempt to consolidate domestic political gains before tackling some of the more intractable economic problems.