Today, on National Day, some 190 thousand passers-by, strangers to each other, packed the festively decked-out Tian’anmen Square to watch the Flag Raising Ceremony.
Although 2008 doesn’t make a “round number” anniversary, so much has transpired in this troubled year to make it almost seem like one. On this day, we translate for you the following editorial published in the Beijing News (新京报), titled Today, let us remember the value of being a “Chinese”:
Today is the 59th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.
To the history before 1949, this was a day that witnessed the independence and liberation of the Chinese nation; after October 1st of 1949, this was a day on which a country formed uniform institutions and identified with its sovereignty. At this moment, as we enjoy the peace and comfort of the “Golden Week” holiday, remembering the value and meaning of being “Chinese” is especially important to this country of ours in transition.
In terms of the astronomical calendar, October in China is beautiful autumn; but in terms of the political calendar, October 1st is a new beginning. For the most part of 2008, 1.3 billion Chinese people used their own ways to record their stories, and 1.3 billion Chinese people moved the world with their sincerity.
In 2008, Chinese people experienced the natural disasters of rain and snowstorms never seen in history, topped by the devastating pains of the Wenchuan Earthquake. The immense lethality of Nature destroyed the lives and homes of some compatriots, and rewrote the distance between life and death in kinship, friendship, and love. But at the same time, the efforts of our fellow countrymen are also changing lives. China successfully hosted the 29th Olympics and Paralympics according to her promise to the world; and based on her own scientific research, China successfully completed the Shenzhou 7 manned space mission, and realized the first space walk by a Chinese citizen.
If the National Day of 2008 has anything else of remark, then it must be the happenstance that it is the 30-year anniversary of the Reform and Opening. This wild and leaping movement in history was the key decision determining contemporary China’s fate, as well as a deep transformation that will decide the lives of future Chinese people and their relation with the world. Under the historical backdrop of the Reform and Opening, as we pass through the day of the 59th Anniversary of the founding of New China, we are brought this inspiration: that concern for the dignity, lot, and rights of men is the true force that spurs us to ceaselessly outdo ourselves, to choose to learn, and to transform.
Of course, all grand historical narratives always summarize into the fate of individuals. Whether it was during the snowstorm disaster, or during the national casualty of Wenchuan Earthquake and the heartaching tainted milk powder incident, or the great Olymipcs and soaring dreams of Shenzhou that uplifted us, the judgement of history rests on the standard of whether Chinese people derived benefits and avoided harm, whether they received benevolence when sought, whether they received love when needed. Here we had mutual aid between teacher and student, and also sportsmen who dared to excel, not to mention the selfless dedication of volunteers, and the generous salvation by everymen. Their choices did not necessarily profit them then, but were sufficient to benefit others into posterity. And this is exactly connected with the fundamental aim of the Reform and Opening: to let all countrymen experience the dignity brought by the Republic and share in the fruits of development — releasing and growing the society’s productivity, realizing the country’s modernization, letting Chinese people get prosperous, and rejuvenating the great Chinese nation.
This National Day is somewhat different from the past in that the value of people is more brilliantly radiating from the disasters and glories that we experienced. We feel both regret and uplift from everything they went through, yet we treasure more the care, dignity, and confidence that all those things embodied. Because when we pass through this uncommon year, “Chinese” is breaking free from just a historically shared form of address, and more and more becoming a name with a common tale. It determines that we are owners of a common physical boundary, cultural heritage, way of life, and even habit of thought. It also determines that while we each may have fate far and widely apart, we are still all a part of the fate of the country. We not only need to have the willingness to ensure every countryman is joyous before the country is, but also to have the courage to hoist up the millions onto one’s own shoulder.
Recently, Premier Wen Jiabao said during an interview with a reporter, that whenever he read “Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius, he could always be deeply moved by its contents, and would get one conclusion from it: that great men of sway are ephemeral, leaving only a story, sometimes merely half of one; only the people can create and write history. Drawing from happiness and calamity, this country will inevitably find its ultimate value in history. It makes it worthy for us to collectively think about and anticipate the future on the occasion of the 59th Anniversary of the founding of New China.