China’s President Xi Jinping has said China does not oppress other countries, in a speech marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Communist Party.
In comments seen as referring to the US, Xi also warned against anyone “oppressing China”, saying they would “have their heads bashed against a great wall of steel”.
A specially vetted crowd of about 70,000 is in Beijing’s Tiananmen square for the celebration, many of them not wearing masks.
Xi reiterated the role of the party in modern China, saying that it has been central to the country’s growth and that attempts to separate it from the people would fail.
He added that “we will never allow anyone to bully, oppress or subjugate China”.
The ceremonies on Thursday morning also saw military fly-bys, artillery salutes, and massed patriotic songs.
The country has seen a media blitz in recent weeks promoting a party-approved version of China’s history.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which was founded in 1921, came to power 72 years ago after a long civil war. In that time the country has undergone massive changes.
On Monday, a performance entitled The Great Journey was staged at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing, where performers put on extravagant set-pieces detailing the history of the party and country.
For the celebrations, Chinese cinemas have been ordered to screen propaganda films known as “red films”. Over 100 television dramas celebrating the centenary have also been scheduled for broadcast, and a song called 100%, that praises China’s achievements and features 100 rappers has also been released.
However, significant historical events such the Cultural Revolution purges, the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, and the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have been missing, reported news agencies.
“Red tourism” has also become popular, with travel companies launching 100 unique routes for “red pilgrims”. Several sites across the country deemed historically significant for the party have reported spikes in tourists.
But not everyone is pleased with the saturation coverage of the celebrations.
“Now when I turn on the TV, dozens of stations are airing dramas about revolutionary wars,” a Beijing resident told BBC Chinese service. “Every day, it’s all about building the party and building the nation – do you have any other choice?”
With celebrations focusing on the intertwining histories of the party and country, the CCP appears keen to make itself synonymous with China’s rapid development, say experts.
The centenary is “clearly an important moment for the party and has been planned meticulously,” Tom Rafferty from The Economist Intelligence Unit told the BBC.
“The official message has been the emphasis on the current period as representing a new era distinct from the post-1978 reform period,” he said, adding that this “underscores the ambitions of the current leadership”.
Thursday also marks the 24th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong by the British to Chinese rule.
The city used to hold celebrations on the date but in recent years it has seen anti-Beijing protests instead, although a controversial national security law put in place last year is currently muting dissent.
Hong Kong police have denied permission for a rally, citing coronavirus restrictions, organisers said.