When the Chinese Communist Party recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of its rule, it predictably pulled out all the stops. These included stepped up censorship of already tightly controlled domestic media for weeks before the event, extraordinary security measures in Beijing designed to prevent even the slightest disturbance, and the largest military parade in the country’s history.
Responses to China’s celebrations have been equally predictable, too, and although they fall into two broad and opposing camps, there is no real contradiction between them.
On one hand, some observers focus on China’s achievements since the early 1980s, starting with the rapid and prolonged economic growth that has “lifted” hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty. From the evidence on display in the parade, it has also created a world-class military that is quickly becoming a peer rival of the United States, despite vastly greater spending by the Pentagon.