China’s extraordinary rise was a defining story of the 20th Century, but as it prepares to mark its 70th anniversary, the BBC’s John Sudworth in Beijing asks who has really won under the Communist Party’s rule.
Sitting at his desk in the Chinese city of Tianjin, Zhao Jingjia’s knife is tracing the contours of a face.
Cut by delicate cut, the form emerges – the unmistakable image of Mao Zedong, founder of modern China.
The retired oil engineer discovered his skill with a blade only in later life and now spends his days using the ancient art of paper cutting to glorify leaders and events from China’s communist history.
“I’m the same age as the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” he says. “I have deep feelings for my motherland, my people and my party.”
Born a few days before October 1, 1949 – the day the PRC was declared by Mao – Mr Zhao’s life has followed the dramatic contours of China’s development, through poverty, repression and the rise to prosperity.
Now, in his modest but comfortable apartment, his art is helping him make sense of one of the most tumultuous periods of human history.
“Wasn’t Mao a monster,” I ask, “responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of his countrymen?”
“I lived through it,” he replies. “I can tell you that Chairman Mao did make some mistakes but they weren’t his alone.
“I respect him from my heart. He achieved our nation’s liberation. Ordinary people cannot do such things.”
On Tuesday, China will present a similar, glorious rendering of its record to the world.
The country is staging one of its biggest ever military parades, a celebration of 70 years of Communist Party rule as pure, political triumph.
Beijing will tremble to the thunder of tanks, missile launchers and 15,000 marching soldiers, a projection of national power, wealth and status watched over by the current Communist Party leader, President Xi Jinping, in Tiananmen Square.
Like Mr Zhao’s paper-cut portraits, we’re not meant to focus on the many individual scars made in the course of China’s modern history.
On October 1, 1949, Chairman Mao stood in Tiananmen Square urging a war-ravaged, semi-feudal state into a new era with a founding speech and a somewhat plodding parade that could muster only 17 planes for the flyby. -BBC