The barrage of fireworks-caused explosions rattling my windows shook me from my DVD-induced daze and reminded me that today is Chinese National Day. 57 years ago today the Central People’s Government announced the official creation of the People’s Republic of China.
China’s continually in the news regarding their “troubles” with environmental issues, social unrest, and general disagreements with much the rest of the world over the rights of the peoples that live within its borders – but hell, these are domestic affairs and Western countries should keep their damn noses out of ‘em.
As there’s just not enough positive things said about this fair nation, to celebrate, I’ve made a list of a few of the more interesting things that the People’s Republic has been up to over the last half-century:
1949: After years of long marches and wars with alternating enemies, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was formed. Led by Máo Zédōng, the PRC celebrates their inauguration with plates and plates of hóngshāoròu.
1950-51: With a few months rest, the People’s Liberation Army were getting ansy to liberate something. I mean, it’s in their name, it’s what they do. They liberate more people before 6 a.m. then most people do all century. As aquatics training wasn’t scheduled until Summer of ’53, and several commanders just loved the Marx Brothers, Tibet drew the lucky straw.
“Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend.” / “百花齐放，百家争鸣” – Chinese Poem
1957: Ahead of the hippies by nearly a decade, Mao decided he wanted to chill out and be a bit more groovy. As such, he launched the Hundred Flowers Campaign, rumour has it he was inspired by Elvis’ new hit “Don’t Be Cruel”. The campaign was designed to let intellectuals out from under the previously rather repressive thumbs of the Party, and allow them to engage in some honest debate and criticism of the Party itself. This lasted a couple weeks, at which point the intellectuals (now clearly-identified) were rounded up and re-educated never to answer “yes” to the age old “do I look fat” question again – some were shot.
1958-62: Now with “Great Balls of Fire” playing through the halls of Zhōngnánhǎi, Mao’s jumping around and poorly pronounced lyrics led the Party to believe he wished to initiate something called the “Great Leap Forward“. When it was restated again at a late-night Nanning KTV session, the massively reverbed Great Helmsmen indirectly launched the campaign that led to one of the largest famines in all history. Feeling horrible about the whole thing, it is said that Mao offered all starving peasants a plate of hóngshāoròu if they could “name that tune.” Roughly 35 million were not familiar with Jerry Lee Lewis’ work.
1966-1976: By the mid-sixties China’s youth were “turning on, tuning in and dropping out”. Mao, father to a nation, wished to get them more involved. Thinking back to his own youth he realized that nothing gave him so much purpose as a “cause” and a “gun”. As Mao’s prized Zhonghua cigarettes were packaged in a rather patriotic red box, the youth took the moniker “The Red Guards” and protected his smokes with their lives and the lives of many of their teachers, parents and elders. Near this time Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen started a communist superhero group called the Gang of Four and launched The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution – though never admitted to publicly, it is said they could turn invisible, stretch like rubber, ignite in flame and imitate a rock respectively.
1979: With the immortal Mao’s wax-like body being preserved for generations of patriots to shuffle past with teary-eyed glee; the newly instated Deng Xiaoping, pissed that he couldn’t get the latest episodes of M*A*S*H in his office, made the landmark decision to crack open the long closed doors of China. The reformation brought with it the start of a market economy, eventual entrance to the WTO and, perhaps most welcome, McDonalds.
1989: With nothing much to do after being told that Mao’s Mausoleum was closed for the day, a group of students began a sit-in at Tiananman Sq. When asked by news broadcasters the cause for their civil unrest, seeing a chance to show off their education, they started throwing out words they vaguely recalled from their textbooks. Reporters, ignoring such phrases as “agricultural land reform” and “tridiagonal quadratic hyperbolic eigenvalue problem”, hooked on to “democracy” and “liberty”. Hearing this, Deng realized that Liberty and Liberation are damn near each other in the Chinese-English dictionary Carter gave him a decade earlier. As such, the Chinese president figured that it was time to dust off the PLA and see if these two groups couldn’t get along. Despite what appeared to be some patriotic red paint spattered around the area, nothing much seemed to come of it.
The only way to settle questions of an ideological nature or controversial issues among the people is by the democratic method, the method of discussion, of criticism, of persuasion and education, and not by the method of coercion or repression. – Máo Zédōng, February 27, 1957
1997: Saddened by the passing of Chairman Deng, Britain amicably returned Hong Kong to the Mainland. Off the record, the UK was reported to have stated that not in nearly a century had they figured out how to ship the damn thing, and as such they really couldn’t see the value in renewing the lease. HK reverts to Chinese Sovereignty under a One China-Two Systems-Like Three Or Four Countries agreement. Beijing promises not to feck up the works in the wealthy city for at least 50 years, giving title to a wonderfully confusing Wong Kar Wai film.
2001: Led by groundwork of the late Deng’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics” (what the rest of the world calls “capitalism with some weird bits”), China enters the Word Trade Organization (WTO).
2003: In a one-sided space race with Japan, China successfully launches their first manned space flight. China plans to be the second country to land on the moon, with an expected touchdown date of 2024 – a mere 55 years after the first lunar landing.
Well PRC, if what you’ve accomplished in the last five and a half decades is any indicator … there’ll be lots to talk about before that happy Moon Festival.