October 1 is coming.

In January 1949, the People’s Liberation Army entered Beijing and evicted the Chinese Nationalist Party, who fled to Taiwan taking with them democracy and mountains of trinkets. Mao went on to announce the People’s Republic of China on October 1 – in three weeks China celebrates the 60th anniversary. And the preparations appear to be bigger than the Olympics.

A new village has been created in Beijing for the military who will be participating in the march through Tiananmen – the China Daily this week has been full of pictures of soldiers of identical height working on their goose-stepping. Today it is reported that each soldier has worn through three pairs of boots while practicing.

The airspace over Beijing has been occasionally closed while the Air Force works on their display (unsure what makes the local airspace different from the airspace down the road – perhaps it’s the smog?) and it has just been announced that the parade will feature not only China’s new missile capability but also the mysterious Chinese Special Forces, who are grumbling a bit at having to spend time on the parade ground.

The centre of Beijing has been closed a couple of times for rehearsals – friends of ours who live inside the second ring road are reluctant to leave in the weekends in case they can’t get back – and the windows of Central Park have been cleaned in anticipation of the great day.

Of course, security has been screwed down again. The internet has not loosened up – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all the other subversive websites are blocked. Chang’an Avenue, which is the road through the centre of Beijing (it crosses in front on Tiananmen) has tanks on every corner, complete with soldiers wearing balaclavas. A friend who manages a hotel that can see Tiananmen in the distance reports all rooms with that view will be locked off for the duration, with armed guards posted. And most annoyingly, all outside seating has been removed from Central Park.

The last is obviously the most esoteric. Theories abound on why outside seating (say, a collection of tables outside a cafe) is a problem at this time. Maybe it is untidy? Or perhaps it encourages people to break the ‘more-than-3-people-gathered together’ ban, which has been in place for years? Who knows… but Zara is constantly grumpy that her seat outside the juice shop, a regular stop on the way home from school, has vanished.

We won’t get to see the amazing marching display on 1 October – no bog-standard Chinese citizen will get within miles of it, and even the Ambassador hasn’t had his invitation confirmed yet. We will be watching it on telly with everyone else, looking out the windows at the jets flashing past, smog allowing, and at the fireworks that is sure to follow. Then perhaps we can have some of our internet back, and can sit outside for a cup of cha.

Mao kicks things off, Tiananmen Square, 1 October 1949

Mao kicks things off, Tiananmen Square, 1 October 1949