China’s President Xi Jinping has opened celebrations to mark 70 years of Communist rule, vowing that “no force” would be able to shake the country, as a parade of massed troops and military hardware showcased Chinese muscle in the face of an unprecedented challenge to its authority in Hong Kong.
“There is no force that can shake the foundation of this great nation,” Xi told invited delegates on Tuesday as he stood at the Tiananmen Square gate where Mao Zedong declared the People’s Republic of China in October 1949.
“No force will be able to stop the steady march forward of the Chinese people and Chinese nation.”
Authorities in Beijing tightened security in the city ahead of the invitation-only event, cleaning up neighbourhoods, banning dogs of a certain size from the streets and ordering birds caged. Ordinary people had to stay at home if they wanted to see the event, which was broadcast live on national television.
After his speech, Xi, the country’s most powerful leader since Mao, reviewed the troops from the rear of an open-topped Red Flag or Hongqi limousine, nodding occasionally to the personnel before him.
New weapons – including a hypersonic ballistic nuclear missile capable of breaching anti-missile defences to reach the United States – were rolled out across the tarmac, and soldiers marched in unison across the vast square.
The display of military might comes as Xi faces a series of challenges that threaten the economy and risk stability at home.
“The CCP is anxious,” Xun Zhou, an expert in Chinese politics at Britain’s University of Essex, wrote in a paper in The Conversation.
“Alongside continued unrest in Hong Kong and tensions with Taiwan, China’s economy is flagging, the wealth gap growing, and health scandals increasing. Fewer and fewer people in China trust the current leadership.”