BEIJING - China's capital readied for a day of extraordinary spectacle and security on Thursday, celebrating the country's ascendance as a prospering power 60 years after Mao Zedong proclaimed its embrace of communism.
Thousands of police and troops have cleared central Beijing of all passers-by before anniversary celebrations for the birth of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949, and Tiananmen Square has become a high-tech stage to display the ruling Communist Party's achievements before invited guests.
The parade of picture-perfect soldiers and well-drilled civilians, dozens of elaborate floats and lines of tanks and missiles will be a proud moment for many Chinese citizens, watching the spectacle across the country on television.
President Hu Jintao's government also wants the show to carry the firmer theme that its formula of one-party rule and rapid growth remains the right one for hauling the world's third-biggest economy into prosperity, maintaining iron control over 1.3 billion people and elevating China into a superpower.
The soldiers marching down Chang'an Avenue at exactly 116 steps a minute will carry the message that this Party knows how to run a show -- and run a huge, restive country.
The credit for 60 years of brilliant achievements goes to the Chinese people and the great Chinese Communist Party, Premier Wen Jiabao told an anniversary reception late on Wednesday. He urged the country to focus on economic development.
But the parade will also be a marching embodiment of a central paradox of present-day China -- a government that claims it has never been stronger and closer to its people, yet appears afraid of even small incidents that could tarnish its authority.
Authorities have swaddled the event in thick security, making it impossible for ordinary Beijing residents to see the parade directly.
They have been told to stay home and watch the television, and even those living on the parade route are banned from peeking out their windows. Flights into Beijing will stop during the parade and even kites and pigeons have been grounded.
We must unwaveringly protect social stability, and protect the fundamental interests of the people, Premier Wen told the officials and leaders gathered in the echoing Great Hall of the People, the parliament building next to Tiananmen Square.
(Additional reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Benjamin Kang Lim and Jeremy Laurence)