Soon after I first came to visit China in the autumn of 1971, I saw a contingent of militia soldiers doing marching drills in Tiananmen Square. I was told they were rehearsing for the annual National Day parade on October 1, which people eagerly awaited.
Weeks later, however, I was informed that the civilian and military parade had been cancelled in the spirit of "simple-living and hard struggle," as Chairman Mao decreed. The real reason: Lin Biao, then defense minister and Mao's anointed successor, had reportedly died in a plane crash while attempting to flee the country after a failed coup attempt.
China's achievements in the last 60 years have come in zigs and zags. The best place to look back at what China went through in the past six decades is Tiananmen, or the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Behind it lies the Imperial Palace, or Forbidden City, where China's Emperors used to live. The emperor is now history, but Tiananmen remains Beijing's political center. Read full article »