China to celebrate CPC's 90th birthday

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The birthday party for a billion people comes Friday when the Communist Party of China (CPC) celebrates its 90th anniversary.

Yet many official activities and completely voluntarily personal celebrations have been underway well ahead of the day.

In southwest Sichuan Province, a group of elderly people sing revolutionary songs. Some play musical instruments such as the electronic keyboard and Chinese lute, while others dance, waving their fans.

Their leader, 70-year-old Li Changrong, made hand-written copies of more than 300 songs.

In the Fangshan district of Beijing, 62-year-old Liu Xiuhua spent a week making a double-sized embroidery of the party flag.

In Langfang of north Hebei Province, 69-year-old Yuan Jintong spent 46 years collecting paper clips, photos, books and badges--a personal scrapbook capturing the history of the Communist Party. Yuan is considering exhibiting his collection.

Revolutionary songs are heard from the Yangtze River to the Tibetan Plateau, while a movie about the birth of the Party, Beginning of the Great Revival, raked in 200 million yuan in a fortnight.

In east Zhejiang Province, a new memorial opened Thursday in memory of the first National Congress of the Party. The memorial covers 2.73 hectares near Nanhu Lake in Jiaxing and features more than 800 items from the first party members.

Nine decades ago, 13 individuals met and founded the Communist Party in a brick-and-wood building in the French concession area of Shanghai, though the meeting was eventually moved to a boat on Nanhu Lake.

Changes of life

In nine decades, party membership has grown to 80 million, roughly the population of Germany, and China has become the second largest economy in the world.

People vividly recall the changes the party brought to their lives.

Zhang Huifen, a retired factory worker in Beijing, has been a party member for 30 years.

"When I was in the middle school in the 1970s, our food quota was 0.25 kilograms of wheat flour and rice," she said. "The peanuts could be seen just at the Spring Festival."

Zhang still preserved some ration coupons, which were a symbol of China's planned economy. People then had to use both cash and coupons to buy daily necessities.

"When I bought pork, I would choose the fat meat," she recalled. "Not because I liked to eat fat meat, but I can make oil with it, and there was never enough oil." She said that the young people nowadays are too choosy in food.

Qiao Lin, 54, is jealous of today's girls and their beautiful clothes.

"When I started work at the age of 18, my trousers and shoes were patched," she said. But she improvised by choosing pretty patterns when sewing.

"We needed coupons to buy cloth, and the colors of cloth were always blue, white and black," she said.

Fortunately, Qiao said she was not too old for the fashion. "There are so many beautiful clothes and cosmetics in the shopping malls that I can buy."

Zhang also mentioned how money has changed throughout her life.

In the 1970s, the bank notes featured tractors, railways and soldiers, and now the pictures on the renminbi are of scenery across China--and Chairman Mao reigns supreme on every bill.

Although both Zhang and Qiao admitted that problems remain under CPC rule, such as corruption and the huge gap between rich and poor, they agreed that life is becoming better.

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