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Clashes quickly broke out in Hong Kong as hundreds of protesters fought with riot police officers, throwing objects and firebombs.

Early on Tuesday afternoon, a vicious brawl erupted between protesters and the police in Tuen Mun district in northwestern Hong Kong, close to the border with the Chinese mainland.

The police initially used batons and pepper spray to fend off a crowd of hundreds of protesters that had gathered in the scorching heat. But the protesters charged back in wave after wave, throwing umbrellas and other projectiles.

And in the Jordan neighborhood of the Kowloon Peninsula, seven masked men used a Molotov cocktail to burn posters of Xi Jinping outside a Chinese Army barracks. They left after setting the blaze, and soldiers inside the gates did not emerge to confront them.

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Thousands of other people marched through a busy Hong Kong shopping district around lunchtime on Tuesday, one of several planned demonstrations that the pro-democracy movement hopes will overshadow the National Day celebrations in Beijing.

Large crowds of black-clad protesters, many sporting Guy Fawkes masks to conceal their identities, marched through an empty thoroughfare in the Causeway Bay district on Hong Kong’s main island. Chants of “Hong Kongers, add oil!” and “Reclaim Hong Kong; revolution of our times” echoed off a canyon of skyscrapers and shuttered shopping malls.

Ricky Hong, 49, a marketing executive, noted that nearly everyone had their faces concealed by face masks or sunglasses or both. Mr. Hong, who came with his wife, a banker, and their young daughter, said when they first started joining the marches in June, few protesters covered their faces.

“We are scared now. Everyone is afraid of being arrested for just exercising our right to assembly and free speech,” he said, his face completely covered by a scarf, sunglasses and a hat. “This is not the Hong Kong we know. Please tell the world.”

Organizers expect tens of thousands of people to take to the streets despite a police ban on protests.

Many Hong Kong’s malls, which would normally be thronged with shoppers on a big public holiday like National Day, were shuttered as the financial hub braced for potentially rowdy demonstrations and clashes between protesters and the police.

The authorities had also closed 11 train stations, a playground and two public libraries, mostly in neighborhoods that saw heavy clashes over the summer. The police also set up roadblocks on a major highway that snakes past Causeway Bay.

Stanley Luk, 65, walked hours to reach the Causeway Bay protests because authorities shut down the subways.

“I couldn’t just sit home today,” said Mr. Luk, who owns a handbag factory on the mainland. “There’s not much we can do but at least we can tell Beijing no, we don’t want to live the way they do.”

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To the report of a 70-gun salute, 15,000 soldiers goose-stepped along Chang An Avenue — the Street of Eternal Peace — as an enormous military parade kicked off in Beijing.

The parade, commemorating 70 years of Communist Party rule in China, was overseen by the top leader, Xi Jinping, and is one of the largest in modern Chinese history. It included 100,000 performers and was the capstone of a week of events meant to celebrate the country’s rapid emergence as a global power.

In his opening speech before the parade, Mr. Xi quickly hit on the theme of Hong Kong, the semiautonomous territory that has been roiled by anti-government protests for months.

“No force can shake the status of our great motherland, no force can obstruct the advance of the Chinese people and Chinese nation,” Mr. Xi said speaking from Tiananmen, or the Gate of Heavenly Peace, which overlooks the square.

National Day:
Parades and Protests on China’s 70th Anniversary, an Explainer

Mr. Xi said that China would “maintain the lasting prosperity and stability” of Hong Kong and Macau. He made no mention of the months of strife in Hong Kong, but his words left no mistake that Hong Kong is on the mind of Chinese leaders today.

Mr. Xi also used the occasion to emphasize his vision of narrative of national unity and rejuvenation under party rule. “No power can stop the progress of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation,” he said.

In the tradition of past parades, Mr. Xi, wearing a Mao-style suit, stood in the open sunroof of a Chinese-made Red Flag limousine as he reviewed the troops. He called out “Greetings, Comrades,” and “Comrades, you are working hard!” The troops responded in unison: “Greetings, Chairman” and “Serve the people!”

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The display of high-powered weaponry is always a highlight of the parade, but its usefulness for assessing China’s military has diminished over the years with ever-advancing satellite technology able to scour the country’s bases, airfields and ports.

China shocked the world when it showed off intercontinental ballistic missiles for the first time in 1984 during the 35th National Day parade. But this year, experts at the Foundation for Strategic Research in France were able to spot the latest addition to its arsenal weeks ago from afar.

That missile — which is known as the DF-41 and can carry 10 nuclear warheads and strike anywhere in the United States — made its first public appearance on Tuesday but has been known to American officials for years.

Other new weapons included a supersonic reconnaissance drone, the WZ-8, and a wing-shaped stealthy drone called Sharp Sword. Both are intended to support naval operations. China has been racing to catch up with the American Navy, shifting the balance of power in the South China Sea and farther out in the Pacific. Two submarine drones were also put on display.

The parade included 15,000 soldiers and sailors, 160 aircraft, and 580 tanks and other mobile weapons, according to military commanders, who emphasized that the all of the weapons were made in China and already operational.

Mr. Xi, who is commander-in-chief of the People’s Liberation Army, has overseen a sweeping military reorganization that has created a smaller but more modern and capable military force.

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The parade was more than just weapons. It featured colorful displays meant to bring to life China’s achievements over the past 70 years and Mr. Xi’s policies.

Flag-waving children lip-synced to patriotic hits as television announcers described the importance of young people to the country’s rejuvenation. Residents rode in circles on bicycles, a nod to the days before china’s economic boom.

After the military parade, a procession of floats followed — in line with tradition — bearing portraits of Chinese leaders and their signature political slogans. This year, Mr. Xi’s image joined the procession, along with characters depicting his trademark slogan that is often abbreviated as “Xi Jinping Thought.”

Villagers waved sunflowers as they celebrated the reduction of poverty in China, a priority of Mr. Xi’s. A giant red vase shaped like a pomegranate was meant to symbolize the unity of the Chinese people. Lion dancers did flips.

Hong Kong was featured at several moments. One float was devoted to the “one country, two systems” principle under which Hong Kong is governed. Television cameras featured Lau Chak-kei, a Hong Kong police sergeant who photographed carrying a shotgun during recent protests in the city was invited as a guest at the parade and has been welcomed as a hero in the mainland.

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Another float showed off the country’s technological accomplishments, including models of its C919 jetliner, a Long March space rocket and its Jade Rabbit moon rover, all riding atop a sleek high-speed rail car.

Still another float celebrated China’s entrepreneurs. The rainbow-colored float, with a charging bull at the prow, was called “The Rolling Spring Tide,” a metaphor often used when discussing China’s process of reform. Lei Jun, the founder of smartphone maker Xiaomi; Liu Yonghao, who controls the New Hope food conglomerate; and Liang Wengen, the founder of Sany Group, a heavy equipment maker, were among those waving to the crowd.

“I feel deeply feel today’s happy life is hard to come by,” said Mr. Lei in a post on the Weibo social media platform. “We are still on the road. The more we struggle, the happier we are!”

The images of progress evoke the Communist Party’s unspoken pact with its people: Your quality of life will improve as long as you leave the politics to us. That idea forms part of what Mr. Xi calls the China Dream, a broad vision of the country’s emergence as an economic and political force to be reckoned with for decades to come.

But for many, the China Dream may seem harder to reach than before. China’s economic growth is slowing. The trade war with the United States shows no signs of ending. Various indicators point to job losses, sluggish wage growth and fewer opportunities for college graduates.

The cost of living is rising, too. Both tariffs and a weaker currency have made imported goods more expensive. A deadly pig disease has sent pork prices soaring, while weather and other factors have hit some crops. “Egg freedom,” “pork freedom,” and even “fruit freedom” have all become catchphrases online.

Still, huge numbers of those watching the parade still remember a destitute China still struggling with the consequences of the devastating policies of the Mao Zedong era. The National Day holiday, which kicks off a weeklong holiday for many, will offer still more reminders as millions go back to their often modest roots to visit their families.

“At the very beginning, the country was very weak,” said Qing Lianpo, 67, who was exercising the night before the parade atone of Beijing’s many outdoor gyms. “We didn’t have any cruisers. All we had was basic military equipment.”

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Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Communist Party leaders have established a kind of liturgy for how to celebrate the anniversary, including the role of the military. This year’s anniversary, the 70th, is expected to follow that script.

But President Xi Jinping has also created new ways to put himself and his message of patriotic obedience to the fore, including in this year’s buildup to the military parade. Mr. Xi featured prominently on Monday in a recently established ritual: a ceremony in Tiananmen Square to mark Martyr’s Day, a holiday established in 2014 to honor those who have given their lives to the Communist Party’s cause. He also paid his respects at Mao Zedong’s mausoleum.

In his speech on Tuesday, Mr. Xi referred to Mao Zedong but did not mention his predecessors as Chinese leaders even as two previous presidents, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, stood nearby listening to the address. Instead, Mr. Xi’s focus was on the theme of “national rejuvenation” that he has made his own since taking office in 2012.

“On this day 70 years ago on this spot, Comrade Mao Zedong announced to the world the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and the Chinese people henceforth had stood up,” Mr. Xi said. “This great event utterly transformed the tragic face of China for over a century of modern history when it was poor, weak and bullied.”

(In fact, Mao did not make his famous remark about the Chinese people standing up in his speech at Tiananmen on Oct. 1. He used a similar phrase in a speech no long before.)

“The Chinese nation advanced along the grand road toward achieving its great rejuvenation,” Mr. Xi said.

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The Communist Party controls many things in China but one thing that it could not rein in today was the pollution.

Beijing woke on Tuesday to a pall of smog and dust ahead of the parade — despite the usual government diktats that have ensured blue skies on important holidays in the past.

Industries north of the Yellow River were shut down, including a glass tempering factory in Shijiazhuang, south of Beijing, which confirmed that it had closed for the holidays five days ago and will remain shut until Friday. Construction sites in Beijing also went idle. Trucks were barred from the city center.

To no avail. The air quality index reached 154, a level that is considered unhealthy. Outdoor activity is not recommended, which has been the case for several days now.

Tiananmen Square was packed with dignitaries, party members and foreign journalists. Access was tightly controlled. Many Chinese attendees were from government offices, top universities and state-owned enterprises.

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For those of us who have been in China for a long time, the parades reflect China’s changing times and fortunes. In 1984, when I was a 22-year-old student at Peking University, we were told late in September that we would be going to Tiananmen Square to help celebrate the 35th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.

This was the first big celebration after the end of the Cultural Revolution — although Deng Xiaoping had taken power in 1978, the affair the next year had been relatively low key. But now, with economic reforms having kicked in, Deng’s government was eager to show off its accomplishments.

I remember a very real sense of excitement in the air. We mainly milled around on the square and walked right up to the parade as it went past, clapping and waving.

There was little security, and people joined in — most famously when some university students began to yell out “Xiaoping, ni hao!” (“Hello Xiaoping!”) to the elderly leader. For the first time since the 1950s, China had a stable government that had put economic development ahead of politics, and people appreciated it.

I ended up attending the next big parade, too. This was 1999, and it was the first to have a military element since the 1984 parade — the army’s crushing of the Tiananmen uprising in 1989 had made that year’s events a sober affair.

But by 1999, China was taking off economically and leaders were eager to show their country’s newfound wealth and might. This has been the overall trend since then — ever more mighty and technically impressive parades, but perhaps without the naïve enthusiasm of the 1980s. Or perhaps this is just nostalgia on my part.

— Ian Johnson

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One of the guests of honor at today’s parade will be Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s beleaguered chief executive.

Because Mrs. Lam had sent out invitations to a flag-raising ceremony and reception in Hong Kong on Tuesday, her decision to travel to Beijing appeared to have been made at the last minute. It was unclear why her plans had changed.

The 200-plus-person delegation that accompanied Mrs. Lam did not include any legislators from the city’s pro-democracy legislative minority.

Early on Tuesday morning, the police clashed with demonstrators foreshadowing the day’s events.

The police stopped two dozen antigovernment protesters dressed in black, who were attempting to march to the Golden Bauhinia Square in the downtown Wan Chai district where the government was holding a flag-raising ceremony. The police used pepper spray to break them up and handcuffed a few protesters after some of them scuffled briefly with a small group of pro-government supporters.

The police said officers arrested 16 people in the morning for unlawful assembly and possession of offensive weapons.

Near Hong Kong’s famed Victoria Harbour, police in green fatigues walked along the waterfront, keeping a wary eye out for protests. For security reasons, the authorities canceled fireworks. Two government helicopters carrying China’s national flag and Hong Kong’s flag flew over the harbor.

The city’s No. 2 leader, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, who presided over the event, said the government was sparing no effort to restore peace.

“Shocked and saddened by the violence that has turned the city that we call home into an unfamiliar place, Hong Kong people desperately yearn to get out of the existing gridlock,” Mr. Cheung said.

The government has worked with “its greatest sincerity” to resolve the impasse, he said, pointing to its efforts to set up channels for communication with the public.

Street violence has increased over the course of the protests, and the local police have made more than 1,700 arrests since June. Police officers have also deployed tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets against the demonstrators, in a use of force that many protesters have described as excessive.

There are banners that proclaim a new era for “Xi Jinping thought with Chinese characteristics!” And others that exhort citizens to “closely unite around the party center led by Comrade Xi Jinping.”

In addition to tugging at nostalgic heartstrings, these banners have been a boon to the many small print shops around Beijing.

One of those is run by Liang Qiangju. In the 18 years that she has run her print shop, Ms. Liang has not seen as much business as in recent months.

“We get more orders of red flags, banners, posters and commemorative books than in previous years,” Ms. Liang said. It seemed as though every day this summer new orders were coming in for banners from clients like local neighborhood bureaus, big companies, and government departments.

Reporting was contributed by Russell Goldman, Gillian Wong, Keith Bradsher, Mike Ives, Andrew Jacobs, Li Yuan, Elsie Chen, Tiffany May and Elaine Yu in Hong Kong, and Christopher Buckley, Steven Lee Myers, Alexandra Stevenson, Edward Wong and Ian Johnson in Beijing. Claire Fu and Albee Zhang contributed research in Beijing.

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