Patriotism on the 70th anniversary of the P.R.C. - SupChina
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Patriotism on the 70th anniversary of the P.R.C.

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Photo credit: Getty Images

On October 1, the People’s Republic of China celebrated its 70th birthday, and Beijing pulled out all the stops to put on a grand three-hour parade. Xí Jìnpíng 习近平, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, gave a short address at the start of the parade in which he declared, “No force can ever undermine China’s status, or stop the Chinese people and nation from marching forward.”  

You can read more about the parade, and the military hardware that was revealed during it, on SupChina.

One of the more insightful accounts of the parade itself was written by Ian Johnson, a veteran journalist and author of a book on religion in China, who makes the important observation that the invented traditions of China under the Communist Party, and invented history, are followed and believed by a great many people:

The Mao era wasn’t portrayed as foreign journalists and academics often depict it — a series of violent campaigns against imagined enemies of the state and the worst famine in recorded history — but as a period of pioneering glory, when China secured its borders for the first time in a century, built a heavy industrial base and set the stage for its economic takeoff…

Raised on this ideology, the attendees seemed visibly moved when soldiers carrying the national flag goose-stepped from the Monument to the People’s Heroes at the center of the square down to the enormous flagpole… This wasn’t stage-managed: Some looked bored, others gazed around, kids played. But many more looked earnest, just like Americans do when they stand up, hand on heart, for the national anthem at a sports event…  

Realizing that some of these emotions are genuine is important because we can’t understand China if we think the party only rules through the authoritarian methods that reporters understandably focus on. On my social media feed, which includes disgruntled intellectuals but also working-class practitioners of folk religion, it’s clear that many buy into the national story created by the C.C.P.

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