A bold dream after 70 yearsCHOI KYEONG-HO
The author is the Gwangju bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
We cannot imagine how grand the 70th birthday in 1780 of China’s Qianlong Emperor, the sixth monarch of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, would have been. The dynasty at the time wielded dominance over the world with twice China’s output of last year.
On Oct. 1, China celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the communist state. I arrived at the national ceremony at 4 a.m. at the press booth set up at the east of the Tiananmen — the Gate of Heavenly Peace that stands as the monumental gate in the center of Beijing — as required and sat there with other journalists for four hours until the ceremony began.
By 10:00 a.m. the 50,000 seats installed in the square were entirely filled. The audience had eyes on the main podium where China’s incumbent and former leaders — Xi Jinping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao — were all seated. The parade of China’s newest weapons, including next-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles that can carry multiple nuclear warheads, displayed the country’s mighty arms capabilities. The ceremony aimed at fully showing off the country’s achievements over the span of 70 years lasted two hours and 40 minutes, ending with the spectacular release of a massive flock of 70,000 pigeons posing as “peace doves.”
Xi’s speech was 888 words long. He commanded the People’s Liberation Army to uphold not just national sovereignty, security and prosperity, but also world peace. The Chinese soldiers were given a new role to safeguard world peace as if China was stepping up to replace the United States in the role of global police.
What would Xi dream of? A recent column titled “Man’s world is mutable, seas become mulberry fields” on the People’s Daily suggests it. The column quoted Mao Zedong’s famous poem, which he had written upon news of the Nanjing occupation seven decades ago, to envision the future of China.
The column boasted that over the last 70 years, China has developed without brutal capital accumulation or colonization. It achieved a broader and truer form of democracy for the people than the Western societies where political parties take turns to govern, the column said. The world again faces the crossroads for socialism and China will advance until it achieves perfect socialist society, it stressed. It sounds like a new Communist Party manifesto.
At the opposite side of Mao 70 years ago was Hu Shih, a propagator of American pragmatism and liberalism. On Jan. 2, 1949, he wrote in his diary that there was no use regretting for “failing to plant at high hills in the first place,” referring to flooded mulberry fields alongside rivers. The United States may have to recite Shih’s regret for reviving nationalism and socialism in China, particularly after a trade war with China.