BEIJING: President Xi Jinping said "no force" can shake the Chinese nation in a speech Tuesday (Oct 1) to mark the opening of celebrations for the 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule in Beijing.
Standing on the Tiananmen Rostrum where Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China on Oct 1, 1949, Xi extolled the "Chinese dream" of national rejuvenation - his grand vision of restoring the country to perceived past glory.
"There is no force that can shake the foundation of this great nation," Xi said, wearing a "Mao suit" as he stood alongside party leaders in Tiananmen Square.
"No force that can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation forging ahead," the country's most powerful leader since Mao said before riding in an open-roof car to review troops.
Helicopters flew in a "70" formation over the city as troops goosestepped across Tiananmen Square in what state media described as the country's biggest ever military parade.
The People's Liberation Army brought out its newest pieces of hardware, including the DF-41, a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile with range enough to reach the entire United States, and the DF-17, a launcher for a hypersonic glider.
Warplanes including the J-20 stealth fighter soared through the smog-choked skies, and state media said a high-altitude, high-speed reconnaissance drone made a public appearance for the first time.
But behind the festivities, a clutch of challenges tests Xi's ability to maintain economic and political stability.
"The party hopes that this occasion will add to its legitimacy and rally support at a time of internal and external challenges," Adam Ni, China researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, told AFP.
US trade war negotiations have dragged on, and African swine fever has raced through the country's pig supply, sending pork prices soaring.
But the major headache is Hong Kong, where protesters hit the streets early, with a series of rallies against what they see as the erosion of their special freedoms.
Thousands defied a police ban to march through the centre of the city, the scene of violent clashes during almost four months that have seen the worst unrest since Britain returned it to China in 1997.
In his speech, Xi said China "must adhere" to the one country, two systems policy governing Hong Kong and "maintain the long-term prosperity and stability" of the city.
He also called for the "peaceful development" of relations with Taiwan - the self-governed island that Beijing considers a renegade province - but said China should "continue to fight for the full reunification of the country."
Xi's words on Hong Kong "won't of course reassure everyone but it shows the limits within which Beijing wants to operate vis a vis Hong Kong in the future, in spite of its increasing interference in local affairs," said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University.
Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, was invited to the national day celebration, highlighting Beijing's continued support for the under-fire leader.
The Beijing festivities were held under tight security, with road closures and even a ban on flying kites.
The military show of force was followed by a pageant involving 100,000 civilians and 70 floats depicting China's greatest achievements.
A giant portrait of Mao, followed by those of past leaders and Xi, streamed across the avenue as the president and other officials waved.
Replicas of a space rocket, a homegrown passenger plane and high-speed trains were followed by smiling ethnic minorities - imagery that glosses over accusations of human rights abuses in the frontier regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.
"Beijing wants to highlight its military modernisation, political unity, and determination to protect its interests," Ni said.
Authorities usually close factories to ensure blue skies during major events, but unhealthy smog covered the Chinese capital on Tuesday.
The Communist Party has repeatedly defied the odds to remain in power for seven decades.
Under Mao, tens of millions of people died during the disastrous Great Leap Forward, and the country was plunged into violent chaos during the decade-long Cultural Revolution.
After Mao's death in 1976, the party launched the reform and opening-up policy under paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, starting decades of breakneck growth and development.
But the party retained a stranglehold on power, sending troops to end the biggest challenge to its rule in 1989 when pro-democracy protesters occupied Tiananmen Square.
Xi has made clear that he believes only the Communist Party can make the country realise its dream - with him at the helm.
"The Communist Party will continue to ensure that it remains the sole political authority in China," said Drew Thompson, visiting senior research fellow at Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
"It will continue to adapt to do that and it will continue to seek to provide social goods and economic goods for its people, and as long as it continues to deliver those public goods, then it will likely stay in power, but the manner by which it does I think will change over time."
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