In 1959 National Day Parade, Peng Dehuai had been replaced as National Defense Minister by Lin Biao who took up the job as parade Commander, while Yang Yong became the parade director.
The vehicle pisions included: two motorized infantry pisions, one parachute pision, a howitzer pision, a cannon pision, a heavy tank pision and a gun pision.
155 planes took to the skies, consisting of one bomber pision and four fighter pisions of J-5 fighters.
Fresh from a landmark visit to the United States the previous month, Kruschev turned up in Beijing for the October celebrations, standing by Mao’s side at center stage. And while there were smiles on the day, relations had cooled a few years earlier, and by 1960 the disagreements had become public. China was disillusioned by Kruschev’s departure from Stalin’s ideals, and ties were formally ended in 1962.
It was also the end of another sort: the 1959 parade was the last one for 25 years. In September 1960, it was decided to celebrate on a small scale every five years while celebrating on a larger scale with military parades every ten years. But parades were soon denounced during the Cultural Revolution era, and with China struggling to cope with a crippling famine, military parades of any sort were cancelled outright.
The enhanced capability of the PLA was displayed for the first time at the 1954 National Day Parade. Over 10,000 officers and soldiers marched in the parade, and it was clear from the organization and the equipment on offer that the PLA had entered a new phase of development.
The equipment on display in 1954 included howitzers, rocket launchers, search lights, tanks and MiG bombers. It was also the year that paratroopers made their debut.
They didn't perform a parachute jump, but their presence signaled a great advancement in the capabilities of the air force. As the paratroopers marched below, war planes flew over Tian'anmen Square.
China didn’t have the capability to design and build its own equipment in the early days, so the weaponry was largely imported from the Soviet Union. But this year it’s very much all made in China.
Back on China’s very first National Day, 16,400 soldiers took part; certainly an impressive statistic in terms of man power – but the military hardware on display back in 1949 was in a different league to the ultra-modern weapons systems that passed by – and over – Tiananmen Square today.
Six decades ago, the highlights included 119 cannons, 152 tanks – all foreign made - and about 2,000 cavalry.
The standard of the troops also presents a marked contrast; while their bravery and endurance were in no doubt, the war weary veterans taking part in that parade had nothing approaching the education, equipment and specialized knowledge of today’s highly trained and superbly equipped soldiers.
Another contrast in terms military personnel is that today we saw representatives of the navy, air force - and other specialized branches of the services - all playing prominent parts. However in 1949 the troops marching were virtually all infantry, as the other branches of the military were still being established. Still, this year’s anniversary event will contain many of the same elements as the original version 60 years ago. And the basic formation of the parade will remain largely the same as it was in 1949.