Sunday, October 09, 2011

Revolution centenary in Beijing

After a year of tussles between four Chinese cities in an unofficial bid to host the centenary of the 1911 Chinese Revolution, the winner is a city that wasn't even in the running.
By Peh Shing Huei, China Bureau Chief

Capital Beijing, despite not contesting with Wuhan, Nanjing and the Guangdong cities of Zhongshan and Guangzhou for the honours, will hold the main celebrations today, according to the state Xinhua news agency yesterday.

Chinese President Hu Jintao will deliver a speech at the ceremony to mark China's overthrow of imperial rule, which will be held at the Great Hall of the People and aired live across the nation on TV and radio.

The news comes as a bitter blow to the bidding quartet, which have invested billions of yuan, lobbied the central government and even sought celebrity endorsements.

Central Wuhan city, which was seen as the front runner because it witnessed the first successful mutiny against the Qing Dynasty, is feeling the pain.

It had pumped in a reported 20 billion yuan (S$4.1 billion) for a lavish celebration plan, which included a 400 million yuan new museum on the uprising that China refers to as the Xinhai Revolution. And as recently as June, the authorities of the Hubei provincial capital were still harbouring hopes that it would be chosen.

'Wuhan city is where the first shots of the Xinhai Revolution were fired,' said senior provincial political adviser Li Youcai. 'It is advantageous to host the main centennial celebrations in Wuhan. Both the province and the city have been working very hard to obtain the support of the central government.'

Its planned celebrations will still go ahead, but will now have to settle as a sideshow, possibly without top Communist Party leaders in attendance.

Such disappointment was also felt in Nanjing, which had based its bid on its status as the capital of the new republic that was formed after 1911.

The other losers were Guangzhou, which had two failed uprisings, and Zhongshan, the home town of Sun Yat Sen, the man who inspired the revolt.

Analysts said the decision is actually not that surprising. History professor Qiu Jie from the Sun Yat Sen University said that previous commemorations have always been held in Beijing, with smaller-scale celebrations in Wuhan.

A history researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who asked not to be named, added that the authorities are not keen to have a large-scale celebration.

This is because although the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) traced its origins to the Xinhai Revolution, the successors of the Qing Dynasty were in fact the Kuomintang - a regime that the CCP subsequently overthrew in 1949.

There are also fears among the party leadership that comparisons would be made between the CCP and the ailing Qing Dynasty, since both regimes faced widespread corruption and social discontent.

'The central government has to calibrate how it deals with this anniversary. It's a sensitive issue,' said the history researcher.

'If the celebrations are too elaborate, it would diminish the political legitimacy of the current ruling party.'

Additional reporting by Lina Miao