In a spectacular show of might, over thousands of soldiers march through Beijing in the biggest-ever military parade to mark 60 years of communist rule.
Hundreds of thousands of marchers, batteries of soldiers and weaponry from drone missiles to amphibious assault vehicles are being showcased.
Traffic around Tiananmen Square is blocked and military convoys circled through the city before dawn and took up positions east of Tiananmen Square ahead of the parade.
Security is extremely tight, and with the main streets blocked by police residents of the capital had to be content with watching from backstreets and alleyways.
Beijing locals seemed to take the security measures in stride.
"In past years, back in the day, we were able to participate in the parades or at least stand over there and watch from the side of the streets" said one man adding, "now it is really strictly controlled. I guess it is for safety concerns. "
Festivities surrounding the founding of the People's Republic will feature President Hu Jintao reviewing chanting troops, a flyover by domestically made fighter jets, including the first batch of women pilots, and tens of thousands of students flipping cards to make pictures.
Sixty floats celebrating last year's Beijing Olympics, China's manned space programme and other symbols of progress will follow the military convoy along the parade route through Tiananmen Square.
The display is meant to underscore what the leadership calls the "revival of the great Chinese nation," and the plans stirred both patriotism, and some unease at the pomp and firepower.
The parade is now billed by state media as China's largest-ever display of weaponry, reminiscent of the Soviet Union, and it comes with the mass synchronized performances usually associated with North Korea.
Alongside the 80,000 card-flippers making 41 pictures, another 100,000 civilians are to accompany the floats, many of them with kitschy displays of computers and signs of industry.
The feel-good, if heavily scripted moment is tapping into Chinese pride surrounding the country's turnaround from the war-battered, impoverished state the communists took over in 1949 to the dynamic, third-largest world economy of today.
The buoyant mood glosses over the country's gut wrenching twists, including the ruinous campaigns of revolutionary leader Mao Zedong that left tens of millions dead.
As well as its current challenges: a widening gap between rich and poor, rampant corruption, severe pollution and ethnic uprisings in western areas of Tibet and Xinjiang.
In general however, most spectators on the streets of Beijing appeared proud of their country's recent development on Thursday claiming they see the parade as a ramification of China's position in the new global community.
"When you compare back with 30 years ago we were at a real low point. You know? Back then people's stomachs were empty. Now we have really made it to a higher level - not just average either. We are even overtaking some developed nations" one man said on Thursday.
The anniversary celebrations were expected to begin in Beijing around 0145GMT or 0945 local time.