China Prepares For Glitzy 60th Birthday Bash It's hard to imagine a bigger or more highly choreographed spectacle than last year's Olympics in Beijing. But in some ways, China is trying to outdo itself with its 60th celebration of the founding of the People's Republic. Although this time, the event is aimed at the domestic audience.
NPR logo

China Prepares For Glitzy 60th Birthday Bash

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/113086416/113265245" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
China Prepares For Glitzy 60th Birthday Bash

China Prepares For Glitzy 60th Birthday Bash

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/113086416/113265245" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

You may remember the elaborate and spectacular ceremonies at last year's Olympic Games in China. The country may yet outdo itself for the 60th anniversary of the founding of communist China. The big day, known as National Day, is October 1st. The main event will be a massive parade through the streets of Beijing.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn sent us this postcard about the ongoing preparations.

(Soundbite of tank engines)

ANTHONY KUHN: China's newest battle tanks, intercontinental ballistic missiles and self-propelled howitzers roll through the streets, heading for the parade rehearsal. Legions of schoolchildren in spangled costumes, who have sweated through weeks of rehearsals, wait to join the rest of the 200,000 marchers in the big parade. Local residents snap pictures from behind police cordons.

Beijingers are used to making way for official events, but this is a maximum security celebration like no other.

(Soundbite of news broadcast)

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: Television news has announced that no kite flying is allowed for several weeks. No blimps, model airplanes or carrier pigeons, either, apparently because they might interfere with the military jets flying over the parade. Residents living along the parade route have been warned not to invite guests over during the event, or even watch the rehearsals from their windows or balconies. Much of central Beijing has been locked down during rehearsals on weekends during the past month.

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

KUHN: At one intersection, Zhang Juanwen and her friend are stuck holding their suitcases behind police cordons.

Ms. ZHANG JUANWEN: (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: The police won't let my friend in to stay with me because she's from out of town, Zhang explains. Personally, she says, I think the whole parade is unnecessary.

KUHN: Nearby, several residents are arguing with a policeman to let them pass the cordon and go home.

(Soundbite of voices)

KUHN: Suddenly, the policeman loses his cool.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: Are you a Chinese or not, he snaps. Don't you have any patriotic enthusiasm?

Inconveniences aside, many Beijingers are looking forward to the celebration. Among them is Railroad Ministry employee Liu Zongyi, who's out watching the tanks. Last year's Olympics, he says, was like throwing a party for the whole world. But this year's National Day is more of an in-house affair.

Mr. LIU ZONGYI (Railroad Ministry): (Through translator) We are not trying to proclaim something to other countries. This is simply our own affair. It's not about flaunting our wealth or military power. Chinese are humble and inward-looking.

KUHN: Li Shiwen, an employee of the Beijing's culture department, sees it differently. He thinks China is reconsidering its low profile on the world stage.

Mr. LI SHIWEN (Beijing Culture Department): (Through translator) Now that we've got power, we've started talking tougher. We dare to speak up where we didn't before. We used to espouse humility and harmoniousness, but that's changing. It's not so we can bully others, but so that we can be treated as equals and not be bullied ourselves.

KUHN: Most folks here agree that the parade is intended to boost patriotism and morale at home, but the idea that any message or event can be strictly for domestic consumption these days seems like a holdover from the pre-Internet age.

(Soundbite of fireworks)

KUHN: I arrive home to the sound of fireworks. In the distance, I catch the final refrain of the patriotic song "Ode to the Motherland," which predicts that: From now on, we're headed for prosperity, wealth and power.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.