President Xi Jinping launched preparations for a celebration of 100 years of China's Communist Party behind closed doors, boasting that the country has beaten Covid while ignoring the fact it was the source of the virus.
The coronavirus first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan before it spread across the world and has resulted in the deaths of nearly four million people but has now been virtually quashed in China.
Jinping led the applause at Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium late on Monday for a celebration of Party history, with China's rebound from the coronavirus given special treatment during the spectacle.
#China's President Xi Jinping urges Chinese #Communist Party members to remain loyal and continue to serve the people as he awarded a new medal of honor to 29 members as part of the ruling party’s 100th anniversary celebrations this week.https://t.co/hAwSCgKdmk— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) June 29, 2021
The event, held under tight security and not broadcast live on television, comes before the July 1 centenary of the party that has shaped the modern history of China, guiding the country from war-torn to superpower status.
The extravagant show - replete with tightly choreographed set-pieces of Communist history, big-screen dedications to key leaders from Mao Zedong to Xi, 100 trumpets and a greeting from a group of Chinese astronauts currently in space - omitted uncomfortable chapters of China's turbulent recent history.
Those include famine, the purges of the Cultural Revolution, the crackdown on student protesters in Tiananmen Square, the pro-democracy rebellion in Hong Kong and the detention of millions of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Instead, performers triumphantly punched fists in the air, danced and gave a theatrical retelling of party highlights - from the foundation of the party in a Shanghai house in 1921 to Mao's Long March.
In a speech on Tuesday, Jinping urged all party members to 'firmly keep the loyalty and love for the party and the people close to one's heart, turn that into action, dedicate everything, even your precious life, to the party and the people'.
A special dedication was given to China's 'defeat' of Covid-19, with performers in PPE and soldiers wearing masks.
Impending celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party will be a display of China’s economic and military might, according to Asia correspondent Adrian Brown.https://t.co/BqlT8w3L7G— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) June 29, 2021
Xi has carefully reframed the pandemic, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, as a victory for party organisation and Chinese resilience under his watch.
The virus has been virtually squashed within China's tightly-controlled borders, and the economy is on the rebound.
That contrasts with the rolling lockdowns, high death rates and economic ruin that have roiled swathes of the world since the outbreak.
Fireworks, typically banned in China's capital city, boomed overhead, as thousands crowded for a view outside the venue - which was constructed for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
On Tuesday, Jinping urged Chinese Communist Party members to remain loyal and continue to serve the people as he awarded a new medal of honour to 29 members as part of the ruling party's 100th anniversary celebrations this week.
The medal award ceremony took place in Beijing's Great Hall of the People with much fanfare and was broadcast live on national television, as the party prepares to mark its 100th birthday on Thursday.
The 'July 1 medal', announced in 2017 and given out for the first time on Tuesday, is part of Xi's efforts to shore up the image of one of the world's most powerful political parties.
Honoured for 'outstanding contributions' to the party, the medal recipients included soldiers, community workers and professionals in the arts and science.
The Chinese Communist Party had 91.9 million members in 2019, or 6.6% of China's population, and has ruled the country since 1949.
The show culminated with the audience singing the song 'Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China,' and five minutes of fireworks.
Many Chinese cheered the celebration by posting online well-wishes for the country and party on social media.
Some comments were less cheery.
'Only when housing price falls, can the people start to feel happiness,' read one comment, which received 39 'likes'. Dissenting views are quickly squashed in China by a state apparatus that tightly controls information, particularly over the internet.
Amid celebrations Jinping awarded loyal party members with medals and called for adherence to Marxism.
While unleashing private industry, the ruling party has maintained an iron grip on political power, along with preferential policies toward state-run companies.
'All party comrades should take their faith in Marxism and the socialism with Chinese characteristics as their life's purposes,' Xi said in his address to medal winners. Celebrations conclude with a commemoration Thursday at Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
Over his nine years as party head, Xi has established himself as China's most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong, who founded the People's Republic in 1949 after defeating Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists amid civil war.
Like Mao, Xi is not bound by term limits and, at 68, will likely remain in office for years to come. While repressing any sign of political opposition at home and promoting an anti-corruption campaign, he has advanced an increasingly assertive foreign policy that seeks to command control over the South China Sea, intimidate Taiwan into accepting Beijing's control, and join with Russia in challenging U.S. influence in international affairs.
China's Communist Party now boasts almost 92 million members, just over 6 percent of the country's population of 1.4 billion. The vast majority of government officials and leaders of state industry are party members, providing what the leadership hails as a source of social cohesion in contrast to partisan divides in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Alongside the anniversary celebrations, the party has been giving heavy coverage in the entirely state-controlled media to racial inequality and other social problems in the West.
That appears to reflect confidence in its ability to deflect heavy criticism over China's detention of more than 1 million Uyghurs and a crackdown on freedom of speech and political opponents in Hong Kong.
In his speech, Xi said party members should lead the drive for China's 'great rejuvenation,' a reference to his agenda for China to retake its centuries-old role as a regional and international power in culture, economics and military power.
'On the new march to a fully established modern socialist nation, keep moving toward the goals of the second century,' Xi said.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.