Thursday’s centenary celebrations of the monolithic Communist Party of China did not after all compromise with grandstanding, as generally believed it would till about a week ago.
The 100-gun salute was suitably salutary as thousands of performers assembled at Tiananmen Square.
The predominance of the party was integral to President Xi Jinping’s robust presentation ~ “For 100 years, the Chinese Communist Party has led the Chinese people in every struggle, every sacrifice, every innovation,” said Xi, attired in a grey Mao suit, in a speech from a deck on the Gate of Heavenly Peace. “In sum, around one theme ~ achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” In a rousing opening, the performers chanted slogans celebrating the party’s leadership as Mr Xi and other leaders watched. Markedly, the festivities did not include a military parade like the one in 2019 that celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, but the military still provided a backdrop. Squadrons of helicopters flew over, carrying red banners and forming the figure 100, followed by fighter jets, including the country’s most advanced fighter jet, the J-20.
The striking facet to Xi’s presence was his stirring speech, verily his caveat that China would not be bullied by foreign forces. He skirted the recent convulsions in Hong Kong, but stressed that the “reunification” of Taiwan with the Chinese mainland is what he called an “unshakable commitment” of the CPC.
Xi reminded his audience that the party was the only force capable of ensuring the country’s rise. He also issued a robust warning against any foe that stood in the way. Notably, he cast the Communist Party as a saviour, fighting off foreign and domestic oppression, significantly once more skirting the mainland’s policing in its protectorate of Hong Kong, and the persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang province, not to forget the awesome spread of coronavirus from the province of Wuhan.
The party’s continued rule, he averred, was essential to ensure that China stayed on course towards becoming a wealthy and advanced world power.
“The Chinese people have never bullied, oppressed or enslaved the peoples of other countries, not in the past, not now and not in the future,” he said.
“At the same time, the Chinese people will never allow foreign forces to bully, oppress or enslave us. Whoever nurses delusions of doing that will crack their heads and spill blood on the Great Wall of steel built from the flesh and blood of 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
This was an apparent allusion to the United States of America which is trying to curb its “peaceful rise” and assertiveness in the strategic Indo-Pacific region. Thus has China’s President-for-life played to the gallery of the people in a profound moment in history. Xi Jinping has ruled with an iron fist, imposing harsh crackdowns to quash dissent, and this was more than mirrored in his speech at the party’s centenary.