Last updated: 1 october, 2009 - 17:44 GMT

China's changes under 60 years of communism

Chinese President Hu Jintao (3L car) reviews the military personnel during the National Day parade in Beijing on October 1, 2009

Chinese President Hu Jintao reviews the military at the National Day parade

China has celebrated six decades of Communist Party rule with a show of military might.

Vast lines of tanks, missile launchers and soldiers were on parade in the capital Beijing.

A portrait of Mao Zedong which hangs on Tiananmen Gate

Mao Zedong proclaimed the creation of the People's Republic of China in 1949

President Hu Jintao lauded what he called the rejuvenation of China in a speech from on top of the Tiananmen Gate, where Mao Zedong had declared the founding of the people's republic 60 years ago.

The World Today's George Arney asked Professor Cheng Li from the Brookings Institution in Washington whether anyone could have possibly predicted back in 1949 the transformation China would undergo in the next six decades.

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Chinese-born poet and author of the Inspector Chen novels, Qiu Xiaolong, gives his view of modern China from his new home in the USA.

(See below for a text version of his essay)

Qiu Xiaolong

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"To those on the outside, China seems wrapped in mystery.

For a recent trip to Shanghai, an American friend and I went to Walmart to choose some gifts.

To his frustration, our choices all proved to be made in China.

Until just a few years ago all he knew about the far-away country was what he had read in novels depicting poor, backward farmers.

'Black capitalist'

China has changed dramatically. One of my Inspector Chen novels actually originated from long contemplation of my father's grave.

A businessman before 1949, he was labeled a "black capitalist" in Mao's time and ruthlessly persecuted during the Cultural Revolution.

What a historic tragedy for him, suffering through all those years seemingly for nothing, since now it is "politically correct" for people to own their own companies under the new socialist system.

China appears no less confusing when viewed from the inside.

Increasingly materialistic

Against a forest of new skyscrapers in an increasingly materialistic Shanghai, house prices can be as high as 16 million Yuan - over $2m for a two bedroom apartment.

A Party official recently declared that he would punish anyone who was attempting to bring down house prices.

The angry public was unable to criticise the man directly, but a picture was posted on a website showing him smoking a top brand cigarette - a carton of which costs at least a month's salary for most.

Complicated picture

Soon people began questioning how he could afford such luxuries on a communist official's salary.

Under pressure, the government had him investigated, and sure enough, he was found guilty of corruption.

But countless other cases remain unexposed, and party officials are, for the most part, untouchable, in today's China.

However it is viewed - from the outside or from the inside - China cannot help but present a complicated picture, and for me, writing about it is always an attempt for a new and better understanding of the country of my birth."

First broadcast 30 September 2009

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