On October 1, 2005, the People's Republic of China, or "New China" as it is fondly referred to by the entire Chinese people, turns 56 years old.
With a population counted at 1.3 billion on the first day of this year and a land mass of 9.6 million square kilometers, plus 4.73 million square kilometers of territorial waters, China is the largest developing country in the world.
For China, which takes pride in its civilization that dates from 5,000 years ago, October 1, 1949 marked the beginning of development in real sense. For the Chinese people comprising 56 ethnic groups, the day meant freedom, once and for all, from humiliation and starvation, the beginning of a historic long march toward stability and prosperity.
For a whole century before the late Chairman Mao Zedong pronounced the birth of New China, the Chinese nation was tormented by foreign invasions and wars fought among warlords for supremacy over the country. The humiliation the nation suffered was so bitter that Deji Cholga, a 7th grader at Beijing's Huaxia Girls' School, says she hates to study that part of Chinese history.
The part of the nation's history the teenage girl feels unpleasant to learn covered the Opium War (1840), in which the United Kingdom, with just 20,000 troops and 50 gunboats, defeated the antiquated armies of the Qing (1644-1911), China's last feudal dynasty, which boasted 900,000 men. Though the victim of this armed aggression, China was forced to pay the aggressor 21 million taels of silver in "war reparation" and opened five trading ports. Hong Kong was ceded to Britain, to be returned to China in 1997.
Even more bitter were memories of Japanese aggression against China. In 1931, Japan seized the entire northeast China, an area of 800,000 square kilometers, where it set up a puppet regime known as "Manchoukuo." And in late 1937, Japanese troops massacred more than 300,000 disarmed Chinese soldiers and civilians in Nanjing, then the national capital, in just a few weeks after the city fell.
Foreign aggression went hand-in-hand with internal turmoil, making it impossible for China to develop. "In the 200 years from 1750 to 1950," says Prof. Hu Angang of the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijin