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Stages of History | Tiananmen Square

Mass Rallies on Tiananmen Square

Chairman Mao said in 1958, "Everything we do has to be done through mass movements. Without them things will be impossible."

Mass demonstrations were one way to mobilize these mass movements, and to mark their initiation and their unparalleled successes. After the founding of the People's Republic on 1 October 1949, which came to be commemorated as National Day, officially orchestrated mass demonstrations became commonplace in Beijing. Tens of thousands of young students and citizens would be on call on occasions throughout the year to celebrate Labour Day (May Day on 1 May) and National Day, to participate in huge rallies in support of new government policies, to protest against foreign aggressors or to welcome visiting dignitaries. Red flags, serried ranks of cheerful marchers (representing the workers, peasants and soldiers), smiling gaggles of rosy-cheeked children, portraits of the leaders (in particular Chairman Mao) and occasionally splendiferous floats were all deployed to add to the spectacle. Exorbitant fireworks displays were also a mark of the more joyous celebrations. Again, as the late and great Chairman said in 1955, "The day the broad masses of the People are happy it is time for all counter-revolutionaries to panic."

Nowadays these festive occasions in Beijing are generally marked by the installation in Tiananmen Square of temporary fountains, large floral displays and tacky tableaux. Sometimes laser beams and colored searchlights are also used to illuminate the Square and the buildings around it.

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