Fireworks are seen over Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Click for more photos

Fireworks are seen over Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Photo: AFP

BEIJING: Eight of the nine Standing Committee members who stood astride the Gate of Heavenly Peace yesterday were distinguishable largely by the patterns on their red ties.

Jia Qingling, responsible for the Communist Party's ''United Front'' work, was the most radical with a red-and-white striped ensemble.

The security chief Zhou Yongkang chose a fine Italian red silk cross-weave to match his slightly purple complexion.

But it was President Hu Jintao who alone stood out, and not just for his immaculate buttoned up Sun Yat-sen suit and his particularly splendid shade of boot polish-black hair.

He got to stand astride the newly remodelled open top Red Flag limousine (number plate 02009) and address the People's Liberation Army as its

Commander-in-Chief.

''Hello, comrades,'' shouted Mr Hu, as he drove by his immaculately presented troops.

''Hello, Commander-in-Chief'', they chanted in reply.

''Working hard,'' shouted Mr Hu. ''Serving the People,'' they bellowed in reply.

And on it went, over and over, without barely any variation, up the Avenue of Heavenly Peace past the greatest ensemble of war toys that the People's Republic has ever assembled.

Mr Hu's message was resoundingly clear: the People's Liberation Army and therefore the country were firmly in his hands.

The parade was certainly impressive. First past the post were 14 phalanxes of the army, navy, air force and the Second Artillery Force (the guys who control the nuclear arsenal).

For months they had been practising marching to a metronome, and there was not a boot lace out of place.

There were young navy cadets in white, marines in blue and white camouflage, air force cadets with navy blue uniforms and white helmets and the women's militia force in short red skirts and knee-high white boots.

The troops were followed by 52 exhibits from China's home-grown arsenal.

There were new-model tanks, armoured personnel carriers and amphibious vehicles.

There were slick looking H12 anti-air missiles, a mobile radar formation , trucks with radar dishes for eavesdropping on foreign telecommunications and even unmanned drones.

Arguably the highlight was a sizeable proportion of China's nuclear arsenal carried in huge launch barrels on semi-trailers.

Reassuringly, these massive intercontinental missiles were strictly ''a strategic deterrence'', said the TV commentator.

And then came the aerial finale. More than 150 Chinese-made fighter planes, reconnaissance planes, refuelling planes and helicopters streamed down the Avenue of Heavenly Peace.

John Garnaut