China stages military display

BEIJING — To mark 60 years of communist rule China put together its biggest-ever military parade: hundreds of thousands of marchers, batteries of goose-stepping soldiers and weaponry from drone missiles to amphibious assault vehicles.

China blocked off its city center for blocks around Tiananmen Square as it readied for today's celebration, asking residents to tune into the events by television. Military convoys and floats moved through the city before dawn and took up positions east of Tiananmen ahead of the parade.

Festivities surrounding the founding of the People's Republic will feature President Hu Jintao reviewing chanting troops, a flyover by domestically made fighter jets — including the first batch of female pilots — and tens of thousands of students flipping cards to make pictures.

Sixty floats celebrating last year's Beijing Olympics, China's manned space program and other symbols of progress will follow the military convoy along the parade route through Tiananmen Square.

The display is meant to underscore what the leadership calls the "revival of the great Chinese nation," and the plans stirred both patriotism — and some unease at the pomp and firepower.

"China's international standing has risen in an unprecedented way. We feel extremely proud of the increasing strength and prosperity of our motherland," Premier Wen Jiabao said in a nationally televised speech on the anniversary's eve.

The airshow will follow the military parade that will feature more than 500 tanks and other pieces of equipment. Like all of China's leaders before him, Hu will review the troops, standing in an open-top, domestically made Red Flag limousine.

In a sign of concern about the social ferment unleashed by free-market reforms, the government has suggested people in Beijing stay home to watch the parade on television.