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‘Broken heads and bloodshed’ – China’s leader warns foreign powers at centenary event

Written by on 01/07/2021

It was a long wait for the Party’s party. 

The thousands of people awarded a ticket to Tiananmen Square had left their quarantine hotels at 3am for an 8am start, passing through security check after security check.

To pass the time, they sang old red songs – Socialism is Good and other such classics – and practised vigorous flag waving. It’s all in the wrist.

Xi Jinping warned foreign powers of 'broken heads and bloodshed' if they try to oppress or bully China
Image: Xi Jinping warned foreign powers of ‘broken heads and bloodshed’ if they try to oppress China
Chinese President Xi Jinping waves next to Premier Li Keqiang and former president Hu Jintao at the end of the event marking the 100th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of China, on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Image: President Xi stood out in a Mao-style suit

But cometh hour, cometh the man. Xi Jinping took to the rostrum. All the other leaders on stage were wearing Western business suits.

Xi alone was wearing a grey Mao suit.

A racket of helicopters approached from the east, in formation to spell out ‘100’. China‘s newest stealth jets roared after them.

People during the Chinese Communist Party's 100th birthday party
Image: The square was filled with the party faithful
Helicopters spelled out the characters '100'
Image: Helicopters spelled out ‘100’

And then the artillery gave a 100-gun salute, the echoes thumping around the corners of Tiananmen in turn.

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It was an impressive but fairly modest display by the standards of China’s vast military.

The real star was Xi, the president of China but – much more importantly – the general secretary of the Communist Party. He gave a long speech.

There was a large military presence at Tiananmen Square
Image: There was a large military showing in the square
Thousands of people were awarded tickets to the event
Image: Thousands of people were awarded tickets

Some of it was celebration, some of it justification for a regime that allows no opposition: “Only socialism can save China, and only socialism with Chinese characteristics can develop China,” Xi said.

The ideology can be a bit dry but the Party knows which red meat to throw these days, leaning on nationalism as much as Marxism to gee up enthusiasm

So this line prompted the biggest cheer of the day: “The Chinese people will absolutely not allow any foreign force to bully, oppress or enslave us and anyone who attempts to do so will face broken heads and bloodshed in front of the iron Great Wall of the 1.4 billion Chinese people.”

The crowd loved it. And playing those nationalist credentials will be crucial to the Party’s future success.

But the ceremony was a display of the CCP’s remarkable survival. Thousands of people filling Tiananmen Square in neat rows, playing their part.

One hundred years ago it was a handful of subversives meeting in secret in Shanghai. They were chased into the mountains and hid out in caves for years.

Then triumph in a bloody civil war, and the beginning of uninterrupted one-party rule.

Top officials from the Chinese Communist Party were in attendance
Image: Top officials from the Communist Party looked down on the spectacle
People had to leave their hotels at 3am before attending the parade in Tiananmen
Image: People left their hotels at 3am to take their place at the event

That rule has had its catastrophes. The Great Leap Forward led to a famine which killed tens of millions. The terror of the Cultural Revolution followed.

And in 1989, in the same square used today for the pageantry of the Party, the Tiananmen student demonstrators asked for greater freedom – and were met with bullets in the surrounding streets.

The square still remembers them, even if the Party cares not to.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

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