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1 Oct, 2009 12:50

China celebrates 60 years of communism

Beijing is holding its largest ever military parade to mark sixty years since the People's Republic of China was founded.

Hundreds of thousands of marchers are joined by tanks, missile launchers and fighter jets. In addition, 850,000 volunteers are helping maintain security during the event.

About 56 regiments are taking part in the parade to be held on Tiananmen Square. Downtown Beijing has been practically closed-off by the police for the last several weeks, preparing for the big day.

Despite the disruption, Chinese view the occasion with pride.

“We’re proud of our country and see China as the world’s major center. Our power lies not with our weapons, but in our great achievements of the last decades,” said one of the spectators.

Mao Zedong proclaimed the birth of the New China on October 1, 1949. It came after many hard years of Japanese occupation, civil war and political chaos.

However, Chairman Mao’s party triumphed over the in-fighting, setting the country on a new course towards communism at a time when such regimes were gathering momentum worldwide.

In the early days of the People’s Republic of China, leaders in Beijing had to look for inspiration somewhere. They turned to their northern neighbour – the Soviet Union – in their search for a role model. The initial policies of the New China were almost identical to those of the Kremlin.

The attitude towards Russians in the new state was enthusiastic. The Soviet Union was described as an older brother, and Moscow in its turn did a lot to help the young communist regime get on its feet. However, that affinity later changed.

“China felt like it no longer wanted to be treated like a smaller brother. It wanted its own way. Mao Zedong suddenly started to see both the US and USSR as a threat,” noted Ekaterina Koldunova of Moscow State University of International Relations. “And when Stalin’s personality cult was debunked in the Soviet Union, it was the last straw for Mao.”

The cold spell between Russia and China lasted for decades, only normalizing after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, China had started on its course of rapid growth, having overcome the failures of the Great Leap forward and the Cultural Revolution, which led to mass poverty and starvation, and reportedly caused the death of more than 36 million people.

Today, socialism with Chinese characteristics – as Mao defined it six decades ago – has lifted China to a leading player on the world stage.