Floats depict China's earth-shaking changes in 60 years

13:55, October 01, 2009      

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With a "super hybrid rice" sheaf, a spaceship on wheels and foreigners donning in traditional Chinese suits, civilians marched through Tian'anmen Square Thursday morning to celebrate the 60th founding anniversary of the People's Republic of China.

The square became a stage for the Chinese people to showcase their economic and social progress through 19 brightly decorated floats, with each escorted by a formation of paraders, as well as mass performance.

The world's biggest urban square emerged as a sea of colors as 60 big red lanterns waved between 56 National Unity poles at the east and the west ends of the square. Tens of thousands of China roses in full blossom formed the characters "Guo Qing", or National Day.

"HYBRID RICE" TELLS CHINA'S FOOD MIRACLE

China has managed to achieve an annual 8.1 percent GDP growth in the past 60 years.

Today, while Western economies struggle out of contraction, China's 7.1 percent expansion in the first half of 2009 deserves the envy and admiration of the rest of the world.

However 60 years ago, the former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson asserted the communist Chinese government was unable to feed the 546 million population since none of its predecessors had been able to do it.

The truth of China today proved Acheson was wrong.

At the nation's biggest-ever National Day pageant, a giant model of "hybrid rice" became an icon for the nation's 60 years of agricultural progress.

The high-yielding species was cultivated in the 1970s, which helped the 1.3 billion Chinese people feed themselves on their own.

Before 1949, backward technology and the reliance on hand-planting forced millions of people to the brink of starvation as China's per capita grain output was only 290 kilograms a year.

Food security remains the top priority for the government of the world's most populous country.

In the late 1970s, technological breakthroughs and the rural reform in particular helped unleash their enthusiasm of farmers to grow grain and boosted agricultural productivity.

Lifted by an array of policy incentives such as the abolition of the 2,000-year-old agriculture tax, China's annual grain output increased from 113.18 million tonnes in 1949 to 528.71 million tonnes last year.

It has also become the world' s top producer of poultry and aquatic products.

Significant changes have taken place in the vast rural society, as the government initiated a program in 2005 to "build a new socialist countryside", a slogan that could also be read on a pageant float, to address the widening urban-rural disparity.

In the past decade, the government massively beefed up rural spending to build roads, water conservation facilities, and power grids.

Farmers were also encouraged to diversify their ways of making money as 225 million had become migrant workers who landed non-agriculture jobs in their hometowns or in cities by the end of last year.

Social and cultural progress has brought rural residents easier access to Internet, affordable medical services and free compulsory education for their children, with pension insurance for all in the future.

Farmer's annual income has risen from 44 yuan in 1949 to 4,761yuan in 2008.

INDUSTRIAL, TRANSPORTATION LEAPS

As the U.S. auto industry narrowly escaped a sudden collapse, China's auto makers have emerged as a symbol for the nation's industrial advance at the National Day parade.

"Embark on a new road of industrialization," reads a slogan on the side of the float that carries China's homegrown passenger car.

Sixty years ago, China had to import nearly all basic necessities for its citizens, from grain to matches.

Beginning with the first five-year plan between 1953 and 1957,China took the former Soviet Union model which emphasized heavy industry. However, the unbalanced model left the ordinary people short of daily necessities.

To revive the moribund industrial sector, which suffered during the 10-year turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, the government launched a sweeping reform in the late 1970s to inject market forces to boost productivity and made enterprises responsible for their own loss and profit.

An over-emphasis on heavy industry was also shifted on to developing labor-intensive light industry, which gave millions of workers jobs.

In the late 1970s, the reform and opening up policy brought new technology to China's workshops and helped sharpen its manufacturing skills in a variety of sectors such as the petrochemical industry, biology and textiles.

Now China is the world's biggest steel maker and the fifth largest oil producer. It is also the largest exporter by value, sending goods from lighters to satellites to more than 200 countries across the world.

Despite the gloomy global economy, China's auto production and sales exceeded 1 million units in the first seven months this year, surpassing the United States to become the world's top automaker.

China is also able to produce the fastest train and working to develop its own jumbo aircraft, as their statues were placed on a model on a float.

It had the world's second longest railway track lines, which extended from about 10,000 kilometers in 1949 to 80,000 kilometers by the end of last year.

The world's fastest high speed trains are running between Beijing and Tianjin at 350 kilometers an hour.

The government spending on transportation infrastructures was also beefed up this year, as 1.8 trillion yuan out of the 4-trillion-yuan stimulus package would be used to upgrade roads, railways and airports.

GREEN DRIVE PUSHES CHANGES IN ENERGY USE

The word of "EARTH" printed on the T-shirts worn by the paraders were among a few English letters shown at the National Day pageant.

They underscored China's resolution to preserve energy and cut pollution to restore ecological environment, which had been severely degraded after years of double-digit economic expansion.

"Environmental protection is in the interests of the current and future generations", and "Striving to develop clean energy", read the slogans on the floats.

As the world's top energy producer and the second largest energy consumer, it has taken several decades for China to rely on its own energy supply, mostly coal-fired power to drive the double-digit growth.

However, as Chinese people have begun to realize that any economic miracle without proper care for the environment will still be a failure, significant improvements have been made as the government massively increases environmental protection spending and develops renewable energy to replace fossil fuel.

According to a state guideline released in 2006, China promised to lower emissions by 10 percent and reduce its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent between 2005 and 2010. That equaled to a reduction of 1.5-billion-tonne greenhouse emission, or 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

To meet that end, China has been pushing forward economic restructuring by cutting high energy costs and high-emissions projects, and by eliminating backward capacity in electricity, steel, and glass industries.

Efforts were also made to develop renewable energy, such as wind power and solar power.

From 2006 to 2008, China cut its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 10.1 percent, which meant it saved 300 million tonnes of standard coal and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 750 million tonnes.

China renewed its green promise to the world and Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged to cut carbon emissions by a "notable margin" by 2020 from the 2005 level at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 22.

PROGRESS IN DEMOCRACY, RULE OF LAW

Marchers in a civilian formation featuring China's progress in promoting democracy and rule of law paraded along the Chang'an Avenue that runs at the top of Tian'anmen Square.

Paraders in high spirits are dressed in various colors and holding bunches of flowers to celebrate the country's modernization, and economic and political advancement in the past six decades.

A float in the middle of the formation carries a banner that reads "sticking to the people's congress system" and "upholding and perfecting the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China".

The people's congress system is China's fundamental political system. In 1954, the First National People's Congress was convened in Beijing, marking the establishment of the people's congress system in China.

President Hu Jintao last month urged the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) to "continue carrying out its functions of political consultation, democratic supervision, and participation and raising proposals in governance in a practical and effective way".

The CPPCC, the top political advisory body, consists of representatives of the CPC and non-Communist parties, personages without party affiliation, and representatives of people's organizations, ethnic minorities and various social strata.

Moving at the center of another formation is a float flying a banner reading "building a socialist legal system distinct with Chinese characteristics".

There were 231 national laws in force by this March in China.

The country has clearly set the goal of establishing a legal system of socialism with Chinese characteristics by 2010.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY ADVANCEMENT

Another formation with paraders in blue jackets and white pants rolled down Chang'an Avenue, with a theme of science and technology achievements.

A float featuring a large digital screen showcasing Chinese achievements in the research and development of science and technology fields and a banner reading "independent innovation, breakthroughs in key fields, shoring up the future development and keeping in line with leading trends".

Wan Gang, China's Science and Technology Minister, told Xinhua that if China wanted to bottom out from the global financial crisis smoothly, the country should endeavor to make breakthroughs in key science and technology sectors including new energy, bio-technology, information and others.

China has made efforts to finance the goal of making itself an innovation-oriented country. The country's 2008 research and development spending nationwide stood at 457 billion yuan (66.9 billion U.S. dollars), an increase of 23.2 percent from 2007, accounting for 1.52 percent of the annual GDP.

Zhai Zhigang, the first Chinese astronaut to walk in space, Thursday reproduced the scene of his outer space walk on Sept. 27,2008 on a float in a civilian parade formation coming after greeted by cheering and applause from the audience on Tian'anmen Square.

China has sent six astronauts into space since 2003 when it sent its first astronaut Yang Liwei in a domestically-made spacecraft Shenzhou-5. It was followed by a two-man mission that carried Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng in 2005.

The trio of Shenzhou-7 astronauts Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming andJing Haipeng orbited the earth for three days in September last year.

Zhai became the first Chinese person to walk in space, and made China the third country after the United States and Russia to be able to conduct a space walk.

The 20-minute walk was believed to help pave the way for the country' s next space mission -- a space docking in 2011 and a manned space station in 2020.

EDUCATIONAL, CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT

The formation was trailed by another one with college students dressed in long-sleeved shirts and carrying colorful university school flags. The banner on the float reads "education is a cause of fundamental importance for the future of our nation".

Zhou Ji, China's Minister of Education, was a teacher in western Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region more than three decades ago. Zhou told Xinhua that the government set great store on education development since the founding of the PRC, especially since the reform and opening up three decades ago, helping to greatly improve the studying conditions of children living in rural areas in particular.

China's nine-year compulsory education policy, which was launched in 1986, enabling students over six years old nationwide to have free education in both primary and secondary schools, has covered more than 160 million primary and middle school students so far in both rural and urban areas.

The next formation showcased China's cultural prosperity, with paraders dressed in sportswear as well as a float with a shining fan-shaped picture of a traditional Peking opera performer and a banner reading "promoting socialist cultural development and prosperity".

FROM "SICK MAN OF ASIA" TO BIG SPORTS POWER

The 60 years also witnessed China's great strides in sports. From "sick man of Asia" to the top on the Olympic gold medal list, China presents to the world the progress it has made in both training athletic talents and promoting national fitness during the 60 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

Liu Peng, director of the General Administration of Sports, said on Sept. 27 that sports in China experienced a great leap from a lack of sports facilities and a nationally weak physique before New China was founded, to grow as a big sports power.

As of the end of 2003, China had a total of 850,080 stadiums or gymnasiums, a surge from less than 5,000 in 1949.

Chinese people's enthusiasm is further revived after the country successfully hosted the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

For the first time China ranked top at the Beijing Games by winning 51 gold and collecting 100 medals in total.

REIN IN POPULATION SURGE, LONGER LIFE

The formation about population and health care showcased the remarkable progress China made in improving people's health conditions and population control.

By the end of 2008, China had a total population of 1.328 billion, the largest in the world. The number would be more than 1.7 billion if the government hadn't implemented the family planning policy in the 1970s.

Thanks to the improving health care system in the 60 years, Chinese people enjoy longer life. The average life expectancy of Chinese people reached 73 by the end of 2008, compared with 35 years in 1949.

CHINA SPIRIT

The parade not only displayed the great achievements China has made in the fields of economy, culture, law and sports, it also demonstrated spirits that Chinese people always value.

Harmony is one important value that Chinese people cherish, which is reflected by a float with a model of a community. Led by the Communist Party, Chinese people are putting efforts to build harmonious communities in line with the central government's guidance of building an "harmonious society" .

A sculpture of Chinese soldiers rescuing civilians from flood is moving through the Tian'anmen Square showed the national unity can overcome any difficulties, no matter whether they are natural disasters or diseases.

During the 60 years, China has experienced many frustrations that killed people and incurred great losses, including the 1998 flooding, the 2008 winter storms and the 2008 earthquake, just to mention a few recent ones.

However, these disasters have never defeated the Chinese people; on the contrary, they created a great boost to the national unity which made them able to combat difficulties.

Jiang Xiaojuan, a 29-years-old policewoman who breast-fed orphans after the devastating May 12 Sichuan earthquake, who made her appearance on a float passing through Tian'anmen Square, was one of the many individuals, organizations, companies, governments that voluntarily offered help to people in trouble.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said on May 12 this year at the commemorative event marking the first anniversary of the devastating Sichuan earthquake, "The great task of earthquake rescue and recovery reminds us again that unity is strength, that victory can only be gained through struggle."

"Unity" was also reflected in the mass dancing performance with paraders dressed in China's ethnic costumes. The Chinese government has been pledging to enhance ethnic unity in China, home to 56 ethnic groups.

Despite short-term separations and local divisions in Chinese history, unification has always been the mainstream and trend.

While building China into a better place, Chinese people pray for peace and development with people across the world. Two formations with overseas Chinese and foreigners demonstrate China's active involvement with the world.

China has been encouraging Chinese people to go overseas for improvement and overseas Chinese now are more than witnesses to world development. Meanwhile, foreigners have contributed to China's development.

It is the first time that China has had foreign paraders for its National Day celebration. Michael Crook, one of the 181 foreign participants, said that for foreigners, to attend the parade is a once-a-lifetime thing and the change meant that China is more and more open to the world.

Source: Xinhua
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