I arrived in Beijing two weeks ago to blue skies. Lots has been happening these few weeks…a Tianjin warehouse full of chemicals exploded into a giant inferno, the Shanghai stock market dove, Usain Bolt won gold at the world championships in the Bird’s Nest, and I’m curiously awaiting the military parade on September 3.
The military parade will be a show of might: 12,000 troops in formal regalia, with tanks, aircraft, artillery, and guest troops from other nations, will parade down Chang’an Avenue to Tiananmen Square. President Xi Jinping will give the traditional wave and say something grand to the troops, maybe “Comrades, you’ve worked hard!”
This newly invented celebration for China marks the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. Boldly written on red banners hung across pubic spaces is the message that it’s been 70 years since the defeat of the Fascists; not written but generally felt is the triumph of Chinese forces against the Japanese. The military show is designed to inspire collective pride in the nation’s current power.
In Beijing, the traffic is flowing better than usual, too. So the city is looking good.
The price of blue skies and moderate traffic are the inconveniences: cars can only drive on alternate days, depending on their license plate numbers; thousands of factories across the region have been temporarily shut down; shopping areas are under military curfew; more police are stationed on every thoroughfare; 850,000 volunteers with red armbands are monitoring local corners; every piece of incoming mail is being checked; and residents have 3 days “vacation” which means they have to stay at home with no means of transportation.
Jets streak up to the sky to seed the clouds for rain, to clear the air. The military parade will occur on a beautiful day, and maybe people won’t worry too much about exploding warehouses and shaky stock markets. (I’m not complaining. I’m breathing deeply.)