BEIJING - China held its largest display of military force with a parade along its main Chang'an Avenue as the nation celebrated 70 years of communist rule.
Under hazy skies on Tuesday morning (Oct 1), President Xi Jinping, in a Mao suit and flanked by his two precedessors, former presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, appeared on Tiananmen, or Gate of Heavenly Peace.
Addressing the nation, President Xi spoke of how Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong had stood in the same spot 70 years ago and declared the founding of the People's Republic of China, paving the way for the country to embark on the path of the "great rejuvenation" of China.
"No power can shake the status of our great motherland, no force can stop the progress of the Chinese people and nation," he said, to cheers from the thousands of flag-waving Chinese who had gathered at Tiananmen Square.
Mr Xi urged loyalty to the Communist Party's leadership and again vowed that Beijing will abide by the "one country, two systems" model to ensure Hong Kong and Macau's continued prosperity, as well as promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.
"Yesterday's China has been written into the history books. Today's China is being created by more than one billion people. Tomorrow's China will be even better," he said, urging unity and the fulfilment of the two centennial goals.
The Chinese leader had vowed to restore the country to greatness - by making China a "moderately prosperous society" by 2021, and for it to become a "fully developed, rich and powerful nation" by 2049.
These two centennial goals - 2021 marks 100 years since the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and 2049, the centenary of the founding of PRC - have been Mr Xi's overarching vision since he took power in 2012.
The celebrations on Tuesday culminate in a gala show in the evening complete with fireworks.
The display of China's military might in the morning was a picture of pride for the Chinese audience.
"I had taken taken part in one of the dress rehearsals for the parade and even then it was a stirring sight to see the Chinese military. Today's atmosphere feels even better," said civil servant Li Yidong, 27, adding that the showcase "is also a window to show the world China's national power".
Mr Li Xuguang, 29, who works in the security industry, said he was already very excited when planes flew past his home during the parade in 2015 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
"Watching them today is even better," said Mr Li.