About 151 warplanes soared through Beijing's sky that had changed colours overnight from thick charcoal grey to clear blue, thanks to an army of Chinese weather modifiers.
The fighter jets and helicopters swarmed over the capital's main east-west axis lined with ancient palaces, five-star hotels, and luxury malls to fly toward the iconic Tiananmen Square where President Hu Jintao wearing a high-collared Mao suit led the celebration of 60 years of China's communist rule. "The Chinese are confident and capable...a socialist China faces the future standing tall and firm in the East,'' said Hu. "Only socialism can save China and reform and opening-up can develop China.''
On the avenue stood China's biggest-ever weapons display.
Rows of shiny main battle tanks, cruise missiles, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles, amphibious assault vehicles, unmanned aerial drones and 52 new weapons trundled after soldiers, including women in skirts, marching with 75 cm goosesteps.
Ninety per cent of the weapons shown in the secretive and feared military's once-a-decade tradition were new. All were made-in-China.
"Our weapons may be less advanced than India's but China is proud that we design and make them ourselves," Shanghai-based Shen Dingli, executive dean of the Institute of International Relations in Fudan University told HT. "India has to learn from China to be more independent in designing and making defense equipment. We can peacefully compete.''
On a day high on patriotic fervour, the analyst's view hinted at what the Chinese establishment propagates. India's foreign policy is 'undermined' by weapons imports from the US, France and Russia, he said. However, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says China bought 11 per cent of the world's arms imports compared to India's 7 per cent between 2004-08.
Sixty years ago, when Mao Zedong declared China a republic, 17 battered planes had flown over the square. Today, China's aircraft strength is thrice as big as India's and 16 female fighter pilots made debut flights too.
"With new fighter jets, airborne early warning and control aircraft, aerial tankers and a series of new air-to-air, air-to-ground, ground-to-air missiles, China's Air Force is forming a complete and advanced combat system," professor Wang Mingliang of the Air Force Command College told the State media.
Beijingers stayed indoors under orders not to open windows or balconies along the parade route. Hu rode an open-roof black limousine (made-in-China) to inspect the parade after a 60-gun salute. The Communist Party used the event aiming for a resurgence of political legitimacy and patriotism after a spate of opposition to its rule including riots in Tibet last year and remote Xinjiang in July.
"Comrades, you are working hard!'' Hu shouted from his limousine.
"We serve the people!'' the troops replied, echoing Mao's most famous political slogan. A new portrait of Mao hung at Tiananmen Square. The floats were themed on China's early 'struggle in blood,' to space missions, the Olympics and energy saving, but they began with tributes to Mao.
Hu urged the PLA to 'carry forward a glorious tradition and build up military strength'. For the first time, armed anti-terror police paraded in armoured personnel carriers.
"The sick man of Asia is now the world's envy,'' said an editorial in the government-run China Daily. "This is the best time to be Chinese.''