It was the dawn of a new era. On October 1, 1949, Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong stood in Tiananmen Square and delivered a rousing speech to usher in the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Ravaged by civil war, the country was still a semi-feudal state. Hunger, not dogma, was the over-riding issue of the day.
Fast forward 70 years and China is now the second-largest economy in the world after lifting nearly 800 million people out of poverty.
“This was around 19 million each year between 1978 and 2017,” the National Bureau of Statistics reported in 2018. “The poverty ratio in rural areas dropped 94.4 percentage points during the same time period with an average annual decrease of 2.4 percentage points.”
A booming middle class of nearly 400 million consumers has also emerged in the nation’s mega-cities.
Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen have been transformed, linked by high-speed rail networks and an array of airports, forged around state-of-the-art light rail hubs.
Decades of massive infrastructure spending has reshaped the landscape. Digital strands now crisscross the country, which in the near future will be connected with 5G technology.
For President Xi Jinping, these are achievements worth celebrating in the de-facto one Party state.
“Xi and the CCP’s grip on power is strong. They have complete control over the media and more importantly the police and military,” Eleanor Olcott, China’s policy analyst at research group TS Lombard, said.
“The CCP [Communist Party of China], throughout their 70-year leadership, has inculcated a strong ethno-nationalism that remains the bedrock of their legitimacy and popularity.”
But if that will hold China together for another seven decades of CCP rule is open to debate in a country where basic Western-style freedoms are trampled on. In the meantime, Xi’s administration will just enjoy the birthday bash and reflect on the images of the past.