China faces challenges amid 70th anniversary celebration China faces challenges amid 70th anniversary celebration
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China faces challenges amid 70th anniversary celebration

    NHK General Bureau for China
    Senior Correspondent
    NHK World
    Correspondent
    China is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its founding. Standing on the same balcony where Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the Republic, President Xi Jinping looked down at the crowds of people in front of Tiananmen Square waving Five-Starred Red Flags. He should have been proud as the leader of the world's second-largest economy.

    In a speech, Xi said, "The place of our great motherland among world powers remains unwavering. No one will be able to stop the progress of the Chinese people and the nation." But he looked serious in his gray Mao suit. He is now facing the greatest challenges since coming to power.

    Mounting challenges: the trade war and Hong Kong

    The Communist party is always trying to prove its political legitimacy. The robust economy has been a key for that. However, China's economy grew 6.2 percent in the April to June quarter -- the lowest in decades.

    The prolonged trade friction with the US is taking a toll on China's economy. The slowdown of the economy could lead to frustration and even public unrest. The Chinese government is very cautious about US plans to "decouple" the two economies. Government officials have even stopped using President Xi's catch phrase "Made in China 2025" to avoid irritating the US.

    Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are another issue. China has long relied on a carrot and stick domestic strategy in which it dangles economic development in front of citizens while restricting certain freedoms. The controversial extradition bill ignited strong opposition from many in Hong Kong who put a high priority on freedom. Protests have been raging for nearly four months and have gained international attention. People in Hong Kong are calling October 1 "A Day of Grief" and have carried out a demonstration despite objections by the police.

    Sustaining support for one-party rule

    The mainland is already working on a new strategy, shifting from a focus on delivering wealth to a focus on strengthening the nation. President Xi's goal is to build a "great modern socialist country" which he hopes can rival the US as an economic and military superpower by its 100th anniversary in 2049.

    During the 70th anniversary celebrations, a military parade took place in which about 15,000 soldiers and sailors marched through Beijing and China's state-of-the-art tanks and ballistic missiles were displayed. Xi seems to be trying to unite the country by promoting the country's military might and patriotism.

    After the ceremony, reality awaits

    Still, nobody knows how long the trade war with US and protests in Hong Kong will continue. Also, the Taiwanese government is sharpening criticism of China's authoritarian rule, and mass detention of the Uighur ethnic minority is in the spotlight.

    It seems to be very difficult for China to find a fundamental solution to these problems. President Xi may not be able to bask in the afterglow of the spectacular 70th celebrations.