As a red flag bearing the sickle and hammer cut through the early-morning Beijing sky, the message was clear: as it marks its centenary, the Communist Party is determined that only it will continue to rule China.
In the capital's immense Tiananmen Square, tens of thousands of handpicked spectators cheered, sang, and waved flags.
To mark the 100th anniversary ceremony of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the crowd was bussed in throughout the night to pass through rigorous security and health checks.
Organisers were leaving nothing to chance to disrupt a triumphant show of success for the ruling party, beefing up security across the city and carefully coordinating the neatly choreographed crowd.
"I didn't sleep last night," said 19-year-old Li Luhao, a university student taking part in the celebrations, explaining he had been preparing throughout the night.
"I'm also rather excited... after all, participating in such an activity is an honour."
After the flag procession, helicopters formed the number "100" in the sky, followed by fighter planes and an acrobatic patrol that left a multicoloured trail in the skies over the Chinese capital.
The event was a chance for the CCP to display its achievements since its founding in secret in July 1921 in Shanghai -- skipping over the tens of millions of victims of the regime, including the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in the same square three decades earlier.
There was no military parade -- often expected in China on grand occasions -- but there was a flag-raising ceremony, a 100-gun salute, and promises to build the country's army into a world-class military force.
As Chinese President Xi Jinping took to the podium, he pledged China will never again allow itself to be oppressed by other nations.
Instead he reiterated that the strength of the party was needed for the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" -- including the reunification with Taiwan, the self-ruled island which China sees as part of its own territory, and "stability" in the southern financial hub of Hong Kong.
"No one should underestimate the Chinese people's determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Xi said.
The crowd, oblivious to the first spots of drizzle, took to their feet to clap and roar approval, under Chairman Mao's portrait.
Flanked by high-ranking officials, Xi was dressed in the same grey 'Mao suit' as the country's first leader, and name-checked a number of other Communist leaders.
"Long live the great, glorious and righteous Communist Party of China! Long live the great, glorious and heroic Chinese people!" he said as he wrapped up the speech, before the band played socialist anthem "The Internationale" and 100,000 white doves were released into the sky.
A 25-year-old Party member, who refused to say his name, told AFP he was thrilled to have been part of the ceremony.
"It's a great honour for me to live in such an era," he said.