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OCTOBER 11, 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 14

A Nation Celebrates a Stormy Half-Century

Vincent Yu/AP
Elevation: Jiang appears in a parade portrait, joining Mao and Deng.

By DON MORRISON

Let history record that the 50th anniversary of the People's Republic of China began with a minor miracle. A steady rain had been soaking Beijing, and the forecasts were not encouraging. But when the big day arrived, the streets of the capital were dry and the clouds had lifted enough for the promised formations of fighters, bombers and helicopters to roar out of the east and streak above Tiananmen Square.

There, a crowd of 500,000 citizens, carefully chosen for their "love of the motherland," looked on as thousands of children waving red and gold fans spelled out the characters for national day. Beijing's 10 million other residents had to watch from behind distant barricades or on television. Fearing potential disruptions, police had swept the city of vagrants, migrants, dissidents and the mentally ill, taped shut mailboxes and padlocked manhole covers.

    ALSO IN TIME
China: Jiang Zemin's Big Bash
The Mao-suited President stages a huge, highly choreographed show to celebrate the People's Republic's 50th anniversary

A Personal Saga
In 1949 a father sent one of his twin sons to Taiwan and kept the other on the mainland. Their story is an epic tale of a divided country's past half-century

President Jiang Zemin, dapper in a charcoal gray Mao suit, reviewed rows of troops and hardware from an open-topped Red Flag limousine. He had much of China's military might to review. Aside from the flyby, there were tanks, armored personnel carriers, missile launchers and the new Dongfang 31 missile--capable of hitting Alaska, had that state attempted to disrupt the festivities.

Late in the day, the sky cleared. Beijingers had the rare pleasure of seeing the magnificent hills outside their normally smoggy city. That was partly because a number of polluting factories had been closed for the week. But it may also have been history smiling on a country that has attempted much, suffered greatly and long yearned for its moment in the sun.

Visions of China CNN TIME Asiaweek Fortune

INTERACTIVE
NAVIGATE through the People's Republic of China and discover the 50 places where history was made
GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACE: Birth of a Nation
ZHONGNANHAI: The Inner Sanctum
SHANGHAI NORTH STATION: Exodus to Hong Kong
YALU RIVER: Taking on the Americans
XINGKAI LAKE PRISON FARM: The Chinese Gulag
QUEMOY: Standoff with Taiwan
XINYANG: A Leap to Starvation
 
COVER STORY
ESSAY: Despair and Deliverance
Mao's China was rescued by Deng, writes actor Ying Ruocheng
ESSAY: Happy Birthday to Me!
Short-story writer Wang Shuo recalls the impact on his own life of some of China's earlier anniversaries

MORE
ASIAWEEK: Quest for Dignity
The success of the Communist revolution climaxed a century-long drive by the Chinese to reclaim their historical greatness
CNN: Visions of China
50 years of the People's Republic. An interactive, multimedia journey



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