60th Anniversary Parade of the PRC - Some Afterthoughts
China’s 60th Anniversary celebration a few weeks back was a monumental spectacle by any standard. Hundreds of thousands of troops, schoolchildren and civilians meticulously rehearsed months in advance. Jets, tanks and missile-toting trucks filed through in a show of military muscle, displaying China’s transformation from a war-battered regional player into global economic superpower. Thousands watched from the stands waving little red Chinese flags while countless other millions watched from their TV sets. Chinese citizens worldwide were flushed with an overwhelming sense of national pride and honor.
Then I talked to my dad, who I think encapsulated the prevailing sentiment for non-Chinese Westerners watching the event outside China, when he said, “It reminds me of North Korea and Cold War-era Soviet Union.” Granted, my dad is prone to hyperbole. And, if he had watched China’s 50th Anniversary celebration, for example, this recent display should not have come as a surprise. But his general reaction to China’s audacious military display brings up an important point: might the PRC’s once-a-decade military extravaganza work at cross purposes with its attempt to promote a benign global image? In other words, is this show of might and power - largely orchestrated to appeal to a Chinese domestic audience - actually perpetuating outside suspicions that other countries have something to fear in China’s rise? It’s a scenario undoubtedly considered by China’s leaders. Most likely for them, however, legitimizing CCP rule and grandeur will always trump what those “outsiders” think. I wonder though, if they are fully aware of its long-term negative effect on China’s global image.