If any reader has their birthday today, Happy Birthday! But I'm sorry to say this blog is not really meant for you.......rather it's for the 1.3 billion or so Chinese who are celebrating 60 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China.
As I write, I can see the tanks rumbling along Chang An Avenue towards Tian An Men Square. This time though is quite different from 20 years ago. Like most of the other 1.3 billion citizens, I'm watching the parade on TV. The flags are out, smiling crowds line the street (an invitation-only audience), and Beijing, indeed whole country, is full of confidence.
There is a huge military parade - all those handsome soldiers in uniform marching by - stretching for 3km along the Avenue. In addition, there are 60 floats involving 100,000 participants, (which makes for a long and tiring parade when the 100th anniversary comes along). Students are in the Square, as volunteers today, to act out various coloured displays. Only China can present such mega-shows.
The build-up has been almost as frenzied as for last year's Olympics. The centre of the city has been closed off on several weekend days for rehearsals, some lasting well into the night. Every night on every TV channel, whether it's economics, news, lifestyle, sports, music, even Beijing opera, the programmers have managed to include a 60th anniversary angle. Various parts of the city have been spruced up and new construction projects finished off, including a new subway line.
Millions of potted plants have been laid out all over the city, making a blaze of colour under the otherwise dull skies of recent days. Miraculously, the skies have cleared today, though that is no doubt due more to artificial weather manipulation than to any divine intervention. We look forward to a spectacular fireworks display tonight with hi-tech innovations.
It is indeed a time to reflect on the huge changes that have taken place since 1949, when Chairman Mao stood on the rostrum to announce a new communist China. 60 years of uninterrupted government has very quickly transformed the 'sick man of Asia' into the one of the world's largest economies, with distinct capitalist overtones. The hi-tech displayed during the 2 hour parade is a far cry from the first one in 1950 with cavalry on horses. There is a great sense of national pride and love of the Motherland. The New China is certainly going places fast, but still has far to go.
I am sure Beijing will be a magnet for foreign tourists for many years to come. This month is the golden season for tourism in Beijing, so it's a particularly good time to visit. Hope to see some of you soon before, on, or after, your 60th birthdays!