Slump unlikely to mar China festivities
China has invited Zhang Yimou, the film director who thrilled a global audience with the opening ceremony at the Olympic Games, to organise the October festivities for the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, a sign the economic slump has not damped Beijing's appetite for spectacle.
Mr Zhang will direct the celebrations that will accompany a military parade along Chang'an Jie - the Avenue of Everlasting Peace - Beijing's main thoroughfare.
The October 1 National Day is celebrated each year but authorities usually put on a special show every 10 years. Details of this year's events have not been released but the appointment, confirmed by Mr Zhang's office, indicates the Communist party hopes to mark the occasion with some of the visuals that won acclaim at the Olympics.
The event is one of a number of important anniversaries in 2009, although not all will be the subject of official celebrations. This year is also the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests and marks 50 years since the Dalai Lama fled Tibet.
The Beijing government announced this week that work would begin to widen and reinforce Chang'an Avenue to accommodate the tanks and other military hardware in the parade.
Local media reports late last year suggested a grand military spectacle was being planned but following criticism of lavish spending when the economy is slowing and unemployment rising, officials said the tone would be more low-key. The Xinhua news agency reported last week the parade would be "stately but frugal". That means Mr Zhang, 57, will have to create a sensation without the 15,000 performers and budget of tens of millions of dollars he enjoyed for the Olympics.
The celebrations could present a delicate political challenge for Mr Zhang of how to deal with Mao Zedong. The Olympics opening revelled in the achievements of Chinese civilisation, such as the invention of paper and printing, and gave a nod to the future through a sequence on space travel. However the turbulent history of the past century, including the controversies of the Mao years, was conspicuous by its absence. The event marks the day in 1949 when Mao told a crowd of 100,000 in Tiananmen Square, where his portrait still hangs, that "the Chinese people have stood up".