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September 10, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright September 10, 2009. Used by permission.


Back in October 2007, with the Olympics still almost a year off in the future, I devised a twelve-step reading plan for Outlook India, the goal of which was to help interested observers (and maybe even journalists who would be covering the event) get ready to make sense of the Beijing Games. I’ve been thinking for some time that I should do something similar for this year’s National Day. After all, 10/1/09 will have some things in common with 08/08/08, even if National Day is a thoroughly, well, national holiday, while the Olympics by definition is aninternational event. For example, when the PRC turns 60 at the start of next month, the main focus of attention will be a spectacle that, like that which opened the Olympics, will be choreographed by Zhang Yimou and intended to awe. And the rituals of this particular National Day, like the rituals that began that particular Olympics, will evoke China’s past glories while continuing a rebranding exercise designed to show local and international audiences that the PRC is now a thoroughly modern country that can hold its own in the 21st century.

Due to various reasons (including other commitments and procrastination), I did not do this far enough in advance to justify a twelve-step plan, so I have cut it in half this time. And maybe that actually makes sense, as 10/1/09 may have the same director as 08/08/08, as well as a similarly massive or even bigger cast of performers, but it doesn’t seem likely to have the same far-reaching impact. For China had never before hosted the Olympics, but this is far from Beijing’s first National Day extravaganza—even though the number “60” (marking the completion of five twelve year cycles) can have a special resonance in Chinese culture not unlike that the numbers 50 and 100 have in Western ones.

Without further ado, here are six things to do to get ready for this National Day of special numerical significance:

1) Check out the sneak peeks of the spectacle that are beginning to make their way onto the web, often via sites that the most plugged in readers of this site will already have on their RSS feeds, such as Evan Osnos’s “Letter from China,” “Shanghaiist,” and “China Digital Times.” (And come to think of it, sneak peeks slipping out in advance provides another Olympic parallel, as this 2008 China Beatcommentary by Miri Kim shows.)