World leaders have begun arriving in Beijing for a major military parade tomorrow, greeted by unusually clear skies and roads as China's capital puts the final touches on its most keenly anticipated event this year.
The Chinese authorities yesterday announced the event's programme, saying a 70-gun salute will kick off the proceedings in the morning, while President Xi Jinping will deliver a speech before the start of the parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
The parade, which is expected to last 70 minutes, will feature 12,000 troops and 40 types of military equipment, in the first such WWII-themed parade Beijing has held on Tiananmen Square.
Thirty heads of state are attending the event, with flags of participating countries lining the roads near the capital's airport.
Mr Xi has already welcomed the presidents of Kazakhstan, Serbia and Laos, as well as former Kuomintang chairman Lien Chan.
2.8 MILLION: The number of flower pots displaying themes of peace and victory around the city
12,000: Factories shut to reduce pollution
1,300: Construction sites banned from demolition works that generate dust
80: Percentage of vehicles from governments and institutes taken off the road
3: The number of hours that flights will be suspended at Beijing Capital International Airport on the day of the parade
China is pulling out all the stops to ensure the success of the event, which some analysts see as a display of power for the country and its leadership, as well as an opportunity to foster nationalism.
"People in China and the world have paid a huge price and made major contributions (during World War II)," Professor Zhuo Zeyuan, head of the political science and law department of the Central Party School, told a media briefing on Monday.
It is only the 15th time that Beijing is holding such a large-scale military parade, usually reserved for commemorating the country's founding.
To ensure what some have dubbed "military parade blue" skies in the often smoggy capital, tens of thousands of factories in Beijing's neighbouring provinces have been shut in recent weeks, while car owners are allowed to drive only on alternate days.
As a result, levels of the harmful PM2.5 particulate matter have plunged to the lowest levels here in at least three years.
Chinese TV stations also began yanking entertainment programmes off their schedules yesterday, including popular reality show The Voice Of China, which will be moved from its usual Friday slot to Sunday. These entertainment shows will be replaced by WWII- related shows up to Saturday, Chinese media reported.
Trains will also stop running, or skip stations, on major subway lines from tonight until the end of the parade.
Beijing is already being spruced up with 2.8 million pots of flowers, while even monkeys have been deployed to clear birds' nests, in a bid to prevent collisions between birds and military jets during the parade.
The military parade has also been closely watched because of concerns that it is being used to shame Japan. China has denied the allegation though Chinese commentators have criticised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's decision to skip the event.
Millions of Chinese died amid war atrocities committed by Japanese troops during the war.
A commentary in China Daily yesterday slammed the worries of Western countries, many of which are not sending their top leaders to the parade, as "unnecessary" and "ridiculous".
"It is difficult to understand why Western countries have decided to stay away from the commemoration activities in China and, in the process, are missing out on a wonderful opportunity to review the common understanding," it said.