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Pride, Patriotism Mark China's National Day

Most of China began a three-day public holiday Wednesday and more than 50 million Chinese travelers have taken to the roads, to celebrate the country's National Day. Despite several serious crises, earlier in the year, China has many recent reasons to be proud. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

As China marks the 59th anniversary of the founding of modern China, the national mood is definitely upbeat.

A Chinese manned mission to space returned safely to earth, earlier this week. The highlight was a successful spacewalk, which put China in an exclusive club, with the United States and Russia.

China also is celebrating its hosting of what many observers say was a technically impressive Olympics.

Chinese President Hu Jintao honored Chinese Olympic athletes and others involved in organizing the huge event, at a ceremony Monday at the Great Hall of the People. Hu says the Chinese people shared exciting and inspiring Olympic moments with all people of the world and have written a new page in the history of the Olympics.

At a National Day reception, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pointed to the challenges China faced in the past year. The hardships include a huge ice storm in January that cut off roads and left hundreds of thousands of people stranded at train stations. In May, there was a huge earthquake in southwestern Sichuan Province that killed or left missing tens of thousands of people.

The premier spoke positively about the economy.

Wen says this year marks the 30th anniversary of China's reform program. He called this path crucial to China's development and said it is the only way to achieve what he called the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."

At the same time, China is embroiled in a widening scandal over tainted milk, which has already killed at least four babies and sickened tens of thousands of others at home. It also has found its way into products like cookies, candy and chocolate, that have been exported around the world.

David Zweig, from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, says this is a huge problem for an export powerhouse like China.

"We were talking about concerns that 'Made in China' may be translated into 'Buyer Beware.' We have certainly seen that with the milk crisis, the milk powder crisis and the candies and everything, so that's clearly been a problem," said Zweig.

Zweig also pointed to unrest this year in two Chinese minority areas - Tibet and Xinjiang. There were violent riots in Tibet in March, as peaceful Tibetan protests turned into deadly clashes. Meanwhile, before and during the Olympics, Beijing said terrorists in the far western region, Xinjiang, attacked government facilities.

The professor praises China for maintaining overall stability, but says the Chinese government will face even greater domestic dissatisfaction if it continues to suppress public expression.

"People who are dissatisfied with the problems and inequalities that have emerged under the reforms, those people need to have a mechanism through which to express their concerns, in a way that does not destabilize the system," he said.

Finally, Zweig says he believes China is headed for a smooth leadership transition. He points to last October's Communist Party Congress, which put forth people slated to make up the next round of Chinese leaders. The meeting, which takes place once every five years, is the most significant event on China's political calendar.