The Communist Party of China's rise from its founding in 1921 as a band of 50 people in Shanghai, its success in taking power in 1949 after overthrowing the Kuomintang and subsequent revolutionary changes in economic policy that have propelled China to its current wealth and power, is spectacular by any yardstick. Life expectancy in 1950, to take just one example, was 35. Today, it is 77 years. Incredibly, more than 600 million have been lifted from poverty within a generation. So, it is entirely fitting that the party gave itself the centennial celebration that it did last week, including a spectacular fly-by of J-20 stealth fighters thrilling an audience of 70,000 gathered in Tiananmen Square.
While much of global media coverage focused on President Xi Jinping's warning that anyone challenging China's integrity and sovereignty will "smash their heads bloody against the great wall of steel formed by the flesh and blood of 1.4 billion Chinese people", the speech itself was not that much of a jingoistic exercise when read in full, and in context. Indeed, the official English translation released by Xinhua, softened the "bloody heads" reference to a less truculent "collision course with a great wall of steel". Given the geopolitical backdrop against which he spoke, the surprise would have been if Mr Xi had sounded more tame. There is also little to cavil at Mr Xi's claim that China's national rejuvenation has become a historical reality.