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Communist China celebrates 48th birthday with calls for struggle

October 1, 1997

BEIJING (AP) _ Communist China celebrated its 48th birthday today with calls for the nation to swing its weight behind plans for further capitalist-style market reforms.

For ordinary Chinese, National Day marked the start of a four-day holiday, with many shops and offices closed.

More than 260,000 Chinese were at Beijing’s vast Tiananmen Square to witness the dawn flag-raising, the Beijing Evening News said. The plaza, akin to revolutionary hallowed ground, abuts Tiananmen, the dark red Gate of Heavenly Peace where Mao Tse-tung declared the founding of the People’s Republic on Oct. 1, 1949.

For the first time, Hong Kong also celebrated National Day. The former British colony that reverted to Chinese rule on July 1 held a solemn flag-raising ceremony this morning, with parades and fireworks to follow.

Chinese government-run newspapers marked the anniversary by trumpeting the benefits of market reforms launched after Mao’s death in 1976.

``The great motherland is full of vitality and energy ... a joyous picture of prosperity,″ the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily said in a front-page editorial that was reprinted in several other papers.

The editorial said China’s foremost task was to swing the nation’s 1.2 billion people behind plans for further market reforms unveiled at a pivotal party congress two weeks ago.

Delegates at the congress, the ruling party’s first in five years, approved plans to shake up China’s huge, moribund state-owned enterprise sector with capitalist-style mergers, share issues, takeovers and bankruptcies.

``We must help all the people understand what the 15th party congress means to China’s future, as well as to the destiny of ordinary Chinese,″ the People’s Daily said. ``The masses will struggle voluntarily and one-heartedly for the truth once they understand it.″

Party leader Jiang Zemin has conceded that the reforms will lead to more layoffs that will hurt workers.

``The various tasks laid out by the 15th party congress are both glorious and arduous,″ the newspaper said. ``We must continue to struggle hard.″

Another state-run newspaper, the English-language China Daily, said Communist China’s 48th year has been ``a combination of grief, jubilation and confidence.″

The February death of Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader who launched China’s market reform drive in the late 1970s, was ``an incalculable loss to the country,″ it said.

But the July 1 recovery of Hong Kong threw ``the whole nation into jubilee,″ and the congress’s decision to reform state firms ``will surely greatly invigorate China’s national economy,″ the newspaper said.

``We now have greater confidence in our nation’s future,″ it said.

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