By Gabriel Crossley and Martin Quin Pollard
BEIJING (Reuters) – People gathered on Thursday in Beijing to take photographs of celebratory flyovers and sing revolutionary songs as the ruling Communist Party celebrated its 100th birthday, expressing pride in China’s development and wishes for a more powerful country.
Some congregated by an ancient canal once used to bring grain into the city, but now overshadowed by the skyscrapers of the financial district, to watch helicopters fly over, spelling out “100” across the sky.
President Xi Jinping hailed a “new world” created by the Chinese people as the party marked the centenary of its founding with a ceremony in the capital’s central Tiananmen Square.
Wang Peng, 34, an engineer at electronics giant Xiaomi, who took time off work to film the aircraft on his telephone, was especially excited by a shot of the jets releasing colourful smoke trails.
“I hope China will get stronger in technology, especially in key technologies, so that foreign countries can’t seize us by our throat,” he said, echoing one of Xi’s priorities as the United States squeezes the country’s access to high-tech.
Almost all the key chips in Xiaomi’s phones are imported, he said.
“From my perspective that is a very regrettable thing,” Wang added. “I hope to see fully domestically manufactured smartphone chips in the near future, and we can master the core technologies ourselves.”
Once the helicopters and jets had disappeared into the distance towards Tiananmen, a group of laughing onlookers broke into a revolutionary song from the 1940s.
“The CCP toils for the nation,” they sang, adding, “It leads China towards the light.”
Others sat on benches watching the ceremony on their handsets.
A jogger in blue ran past, Xi’s voice audible from his phone’s tinny speakers.
Zhang Ying, 64, a member of the Communist Party for nearly three decades, said she had dressed up specially for the occasion. Her main concern for the future is national defence.
“Our country is in a turbulent world right now,” she said.
“If our country is not strong, then others will bully us, so we hope for a stronger country, especially military-wise. We wouldn’t want to bully others, but to protect ourselves.”
In his speech, Xi reiterated a call to hasten military modernisation.
Most of those who spoke with Reuters said they were proud of the party, which had made Chinese people’s lives better and effectively controlled the coronavirus epidemic.
But one technician, surnamed Qin, said he was also concerned about the lack of freedom for citizens in China, where space for dissent has shrunk dramatically since Xi became president in 2013.
“China needs progress,” said Qin. “Especially in terms of freedom and democracy. This would be good not only for citizens, but also the government and the whole of society.”
He added, “Otherwise, just like in China’s history, things will fall back. I think, if there is not progress on this, then things could fall back, and that would be terrible.”
(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley and Martin Pollard; Editing by Tony Munroe and Clarence Fernandez)