The Guard of Honor of the ChinesePeople's Liberation Army(PLA) perform the national flag-raising duty at the Tian'anmen Square in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 1, 2018. The responsibility for guarding China's national flag and firing salute cannons at the Tian'anmen Square was transferred to the Chinese People's Liberation Army from Jan. 1, 2018, as authorized by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Before Jan. 1, the ceremony was conducted by the armed police. (Xinhua/Ju Zhenhua)
BEIJING, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- The sounding of bugles pierced through the wintry morning silence in the center of Beijing on the first day of 2018.
It also signaled the start of a new daily routine for the Guard of Honor of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) to raise the national flag at Tian'anmen Square in Beijing. The ceremony was previously performed by an armed police unit.
As eight soldiers on the Tian'anmen Rostrum blew bugles, 96 soldiers began marching toward the square to the south, guarding a giant five-star red flag.
The procession was led by three officers clad in the Army, Navy and Air Force uniforms. Each of the three drew a sword upon walking past the Golden Water Bridge connecting the Forbidden City and Chang'an Avenue.
More than 90,000 people waited for hours at Tian'anmen Square in the cold wintry morning just to be part of the ceremony, watching the national flag being raised in the heart of Beijing on the first day of the new year.
At 7:34, the flag was ready to be hoisted.
"Salute to the flag!" one of the lead officers shouted.
The military band began playing the national anthem. The giant red flag was unfurled and rose along the post as the sun rose on the horizon.
When the red flag reached the top of the post, the crowd at the square clapped and cheered. The band played "Ode to the Motherland."
The new ceremony features more officers carrying out the duty, with bugle music specially composed for the event.
Tian'anmen Square witnessed the raising of the first national flag of the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949, marking a great new start for the Chinese people.
PLA soldiers have paraded through the square on many occasions. On Sept. 3, 2015, Xi, also chairman of the Central Military Commission, inspected the armed forces on the square and announced that 300,000 soldiers would be cut.
Over two years have passed and China has achieved a revolutionary restructuring of the organization and the services of the people's armed forces toward building a world-class force.
Zou Xiangqian, a former serviceman from east China's Jiangsu Province, said he felt proud watching the new flag-raising ceremony.
"China is walking closer to the center of the world stage and Tian'anmen Square is bound to become a center of worldwide attention," he said with excitement.