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Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 20:37 GMT 21:37 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

China's 'sacred' birthday

Security has been tightened in the capital

By Duncan Hewitt in Beijing

The 50th anniversary of Chairman Mao's declaration of the founding of the People's Republic is being treated in China as a date of sacred significance.

China: 50 years of communism / Revolution Glossary
Years of preparation have gone into the carefully choreographed march-past by some half a million people and into the designer floats representing everything from the hallowed sites of communist history to the tower blocks and new technology of modern China.

A speech by President Jiang Zemin, expected to highlight the achievements of the last two decades of economic reform, will be followed by the country's first major military parade in 15 years.

Much of China's latest military hardware is expected to be included in a show of strength designed to stress the country's desire to be a global power.

An array of missiles will also reinforce the message, emphasised by China's leaders in the run-up to the anniversary, that reunification with the island of Taiwan will be a top priority in the communist state's second half century.

Social tensions

The Chinese people will have seven days of holidays for an occasion which will include fireworks displays and public events in parks across the country.

But some have criticised the cost of the celebrations, some $30m dollars, at a time of high unemployment and economic slowdown.

And the tight security in the capital is a reminder of social tensions, with police warned to be on the lookout for protests by those deemed dangerous elements, including followers of the banned Falun Gong sect.

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