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CHINA: A subdued centennial for 1911 revolt

October 9, 2011 |  8:11 am

REPORTING FROM BEIJING -- The government held low-key celebrations Sunday marking the centennial anniversary of the revolution that ended thousands of years of imperial rule and set the stage for the birth of today’s China.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and other dignitaries gathered in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, under a giant portrait of Sun Yat-sen, the first president of the Republic of China –- the name still carried by modern-day Taiwan.

Hu called for the peaceful reunification of China and Taiwan and reiterated his opposition to Taiwanese independence.

"Achieving reunification through peaceful means is what most suits Chinese people's fundamental interests, including Taiwan compatriots," said Hu, adding he wished to continue "close exchanges and cooperation" between Beijing and Taipei.

There was little of substance in his remarks. The most noteworthy aspect of the ceremony was the attendance of 85-year-old former Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, shown on camera looking frail and thin, but very much alive. Jiang’s absence at ceremonies earlier marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party gave rise to rumors that he was dead.

October 10, 1911, was the date that rebels loyal to Sun Yat-Sen launched an uprising against the Qing dynasty’s military in Wuchang, present-day Wuhan, in Hubei Province -- eventually toppling China's last emperor, Pu Yi. Festivities were also held in Wuhan this weekend at a historical museum newly renovated for the anniversary and near Sun Yat-sen’s birthplace in Guandong Province, according to the New China news agency.

As is traditional on key anniversaries, China also released a big-budget historical film: "1911," starring Jackie Chan.

Nevertheless, the celebration was subdued compared with the big bash that the Communist Party threw for itself in July. Although he is revered as the father of the nation in mainland China as well as Taiwan -- and died in 1925, before the Chinese civil war -- Sun was the founder of the Kuomingtang party that eventually lost out to the Communists and fled to Taiwan.

A bigger bash is expected Monday in Taipei, where hundreds of foreign dignitaries are invited, including former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.


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--  Barbara Demick

Photo: China's leaders sing the national anthem at festivities Sunday marking the 100th anniversary of the revolution that ended imperial rule. Credit: Pool photo