Photo from flickr user hectorhannibal
Wow, what a National Day, right? We here at Shanghaiist were so enthused by the revolutionary vigor it inspired in us that we decided to say “screw it” to Friday and took an impromptu day off. But over the weekend, it seemed like everyone had an opinion on the October 1 festivities… and since we were hanging around mostly Chinese people, the opinions were overwhelmingly positive.
“I bet the Western countries won’t look down on us now, eh?” a 22-year-old hairdresser opined while snipping at our bangs. We told him gently (those scissors! our hair!) that we didn’t think most Western countries have looked down on China for a while now. “Oh? Well, they won’t look down on us now for-EVER!” he replied, before giving us an asymmetrical haircut.
Our granduncle, whose family had been kicked out of the country by the Communist party in 1949, never said anything – but through Friday and Saturday, he watched replays of the parade over and over again, fat tears rolling down his cheeks. Tears of, to our surprise, pride and joy.
“You don’t understand how much this means to us,” explained one returnee who had lived in America for about a decade before coming back to the motherland a couple years ago. “Chinese people have had this sense of inferiority in the world in the past – and now it’s like we can say, yes, we’re a strong nation. We’re a strong people. There’s nothing more exciting than that feeling of a return to vigor, so to speak.”
Granted, it’s just a small sampling of reactions from those we’ve been in closest contact with all weekend, but it seems to be the norm. Even those who were around before the Communist takeover through the terrible 1960s seemed to see the CCP as heroes who’ve lifted the country into full-bellied, highly educated, economically bullish prosperity – rather than a totalitarian regime with an incredibly dark human rights history.
Perhaps it’s because both are somewhat true.
Anyway, the comments we heard piqued our interest in what the Western media – abhorrently biased against or way too forgiving of China, depending on where you stand – had to say about the whole shebang. A smattering below:
- Wall Street Journal: “The overall effect is of a solemn ceremony, not a parade. There’s no sense that kids might be tagging onto this parade, or that anything spontaneous might happen. Instead, it’s as scripted as anything one can imagine from Imperial China. Think of the Manchu troops parading before Qianlong at the Deshengmen Gate in the late 18th century; this is probably even more scripted”
- New York Times: “In all that, it was a fitting analogy for how China’s Communist Party leaders wanted their citizens and the world to regard them — and, perhaps, how they might be feeling themselves these days. The last such parade, in 1999, was of interest mainly to foreign military analysts and China hands. This time, the world’s news outlets reported raptly on the significance of every detail, and China’s state-run television network streamed video coverage over the Internet, in English and other languages, to viewers worldwide. “
- New York Times (again, in a more reflective feature): “The People’s Republic of China basked in its 60th anniversary on Thursday with jaw-dropping pageantry, but there were no solemn pauses for the lives lost during the Communist Party’s rise to power — not for the estimated tens of millions who died during the civil war, nor the millions of landlords, Nationalist sympathizers and other perceived enemies who were eradicated during Mao’s drive to consolidate power.”
- Washington Post: “…But while the demonstrations and display of tanks and other weapons in Tiananmen Square struck a chord among the Chinese, they worried some in the United States. “The People’s Liberation Army is moving from regional power projection to global power projection,” said Fisher, who has long warned of against China’s military advances. He cited an infantry combat vehicle designed to pop out of a transport plane and logistical-support vehicles. “The message: They’re not all tooth. They have plenty of tail to worry us as well,” he said.”
- Guardian UK: “The parade was a mix of old-fashioned communist-realist kitsch and newfangled weaponry. From the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the politburo reviewed an array of unmanned drones, Long Sword cruise missiles and other modern weaponry, most of which was developed in China and being shown to the public for the first time… Compared with the spectacular Olympic opening ceremony last year, the parade was surprisingly old-fashioned. The veteran “model workers” waving to the crowd, and the floats with engines and giant wheatsheafs could have come straight from the China of the fifties.”
Saw an interesting Western media viewpoint that wasn’t included on this list? Put it in comments.