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China: Country Celebrates Communist Rule With Ceremonies, Shopping

China has been marking its 56th anniversary of Communist rule. There have been ceremonies across the country, as well as a banquet for top leaders. But many will just enjoy the week-long holiday -- or the chance to spend new-found wealth.

Prague, 1 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- In the early morning, a flag-raising ceremony was held on Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

It was here that revolutionary leader Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China 56 years ago.

But reforms begun in the late 1970s have transformed China by kick-starting decades of rapid economic growth, and for the newly prosperous, the week-long holiday is most of all a chance to spend their wealth.

Thousands have been thronging Beijing's main shopping areas to take up the National Day promotions on offer.

Road and train trips are up on last year, and sales of air tickets are said to be up by 12 percent.

Trips abroad are also increasingly popular as more foreign travel is allowed.

In a speech at a National Day banquet yesterday, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao promised to press forward with the country's rapid economic development.

History has shown, he said, that China has chosen the right path.

"Standing now at the new starting point of history, our country is marching forward towards the grand goal of building a moderately prosperous society in an all-around way," Wen said. "We are convinced that under the leadership of the Central Committee of our party...our people of all ethnic groups...will surely overcome all difficulties and obstacles and write a still more brilliant chapter in China's history."

But while many city residents are reaping the benefits of economic growth, others -- among them, China's vast rural population -- are missing out.

Increasing numbers of poverty-stricken farmers have protested against seizures of land to make way for new industrial developments.

The gap between rich and poor, cities and countryside, is widening -- something analysts say could threaten social stability.