BEIJING (AFP) - China on Thursday celebrated 60 years of communist rule with a massive military parade and elaborate pageantry on Beijings Tiananmen Square showcasing the nations revival as a global power. Thousands of troops marched in tight formations, fighter jets flew over the city and the worlds largest military displayed an array of high-tech weaponry including intercontinental ballistic missiles in a patriotic show of force. President Hu Jintao extolled the countrys Communist Party-led rebirth in a speech to the invitation-only crowd from Tiananmen gate, where Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the Peoples Republic on October 1, 1949. The development and progress of the new China over the past 60 years fully proved that only socialism can save China, and only reform and opening up can ensure the development of China, socialism and Marxism, Hu told the crowd. China typically holds grand celebrations every 10 years to commemorate Maos pronouncement, but authorities promised that this years festivities would top those staged in the past - and outdo last years Olympic opening ceremony. The government wants to send a clear message: that China, the worlds third-largest economy and with a population of 1.3 billion, has re-emerged as a proud and undeniable global force. Hu, in a high-collared Mao-style tunic, underlined this confidence in his speech before a packed Tiananmen Square festooned in the nations red and yellow. Today a socialist China that faces the future is standing tall and firm in the East, he declared. An estimated 200,000 people took part in the lavish morning festivities, which unfolded under clear blue skies. Flexing its growing muscle, China paraded long-range nuclear missiles capable of striking the heart of the United States and other homegrown weaponry signalling that a nation once bullied by foreign powers is a pushover no more. The military show was followed by a colourful parade, with tens of thousands of people marching and singing in unison in a display of Chinas ability to harness its vast manpower on a massive scale. Besides goose-stepping troops, squads of pink-clad women volunteers dubbed the iron roses marched in go-go boots, while thousands of other participants danced around waving flowing fans, pompoms and bouquets of flowers. National sports heroes such as hurdler Liu Xiang and former Olympic gymnastics champion Li Ning rode on one of a series of brightly decorated floats lauding the countrys achievements over six decades. Giant portraits of leaders from Mao to Hu were paraded past the square, which was filled with 80,000 children flipping hand-held cards spelling out messages such as Socialism is Good and Long Live China. Despite the burst of pride, official insecurity has also been on clear display - authorities have imposed draconian security in a bid to prevent an array of perceived threats from spoiling the party. These include tension in ethnic minority regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet, and widespread social discontent over a widening wealth gap, official corruption and environmental degradation. As a result, most of Beijings 17 million citizens were relegated to watching the pageant in their hometown on television like the rest of China. Lu Haishi, 23, travelled all the way from Shanghai to watch the festivities with friends - on TV. Weve rented a room to see the parade on television in a hotel near the route, to get the atmosphere, he said. The show ended around midday but authorities kept central Beijing shut down ahead of another mass performance at the square in the evening punctuated by what state media has said will be the worlds biggest fireworks display. The Mao-led 1949 communist takeover ended years of foreign domination and war, while three decades of economic reforms initiated by late leader Deng Xiaoping enriched China and propelled it back into the ranks of world powers. State media had said aircraft could release cloud-dispersal chemicals to prevent rain spoiling the festivities - and skies were clear for the parade after light rain the night before. It was not immediately clear if the fine weather was man-made, but state media reported last year that authorities induced rain to wring out the clouds in the run-up to the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics.