Chinese Leader Xi Jinping He vowed Sunday to guide China through serious challenges toward its national rejuvenation, advancing a nationalist vision that has set it on a collision course with the West.
Speaking at the opening Twentieth Party CongressAs he prepares to secure a normative third term in power, Xi has taken a confident tone, highlighting China’s growing power and influence under his first decade in power.
But he has repeatedly stressed the risks and challenges the country faces.
Describing the past five years as “very unusual and extraordinary”, Xi said the ruling Communist Party has led China through a “bleak and complex international situation” and “huge risks and challenges coming one after another.”
The first challenges Xi mentioned were the Covid-19 pandemic, Hong Kong and Taiwan – all of which he claimed China had emerged from victory.
Xi said the Chinese government has “protected people’s lives and health” from Covid, turned Hong Kong from “chaos to rule”, and carried out “major struggles” against “independence forces” on the island of Taiwan, an autonomous country. Democracy Beijing claims to be its territory even though it has never controlled it.
Win Te-sung, professor of political science in the Australian National University’s Taiwan Studies Program, said Xi’s decision to refer to the Taiwan issue early in his speech was a departure from previous rhetoric and conveyed “a new urgency for progress on the Taiwan issue.”
Xi drew the loudest and longest applause from about 2,300 hand-picked delegates inside the Great Hall of the People when he spoke of Taiwan again later in the speech.
He said China would “struggle for peaceful reunification” – but gave a grim warning, saying “we will never promise to give up the use of force and reserve the option to take all necessary measures.”
“The wheels of history are rolling toward the reunification of China and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” Xi said to thunderous applause.
Xi also stressed the “rapid changes in the international situation” – a veiled reference to strained relations between China and the West, exacerbated by Beijing’s tacit support for Moscow in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
He said China had “taken a clear stand against hegemony and power politics” and “never wavered” in opposing unilateralism and “bullying” – in a clear blow to what Beijing sees as a US-led world order and should be. disassembled.
Explaining the general trends for the next five years, Xi said China will focus on “high-quality education” and innovation to “renew growth” in the country’s economy affected by the crisis. In remarks that came just months after his devastating crackdown on the country’s private sector and major technology companies, he said China would “accelerate efforts to achieve greater self-reliance in science and technology.”
Xi also pledged to speed up efforts to build the People’s Liberation Army into a “world-class army,” and pledged to improve the ability of the People’s Liberation Army to safeguard national sovereignty and build strategic deterrence. He also urged the People’s Liberation Army to enhance its training and improve its “win-win.”
Xi’s speech was permeated with the Chinese term for “security” – which was mentioned about 50 times. Describing national security as “the basis for the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” he urged strengthening security in the military, the economy and “all aspects” at home and abroad.
Marxism and ideology were another point of focus. “I don’t think there will be any relaxation in the ideological atmosphere in the next five years,” said Victor Xie, an expert on elite Chinese politics at the University of California.
Dali Yang, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, said the directives in Xi’s opening speech were a continuation of his previous policies. He stressed that the emphasis on challenges and conflicts justifies “the need for a strong party and its great leader.”
The week-long conference kicked off on Sunday morning amid heightened security, escalating restrictions on the COVID-19 virus, and a frenzy of publicity and censorship.
The congress, the most important meeting of the Communist Party in decades, is geared towards cementing Xi’s status as the most powerful Chinese leader since the late Chairman Mao Zedong, who ruled until his death at the age of 82. Doubles down a resolute foreign policy to enhance China’s international influence and rewrite the US-led world order.
Meetings will mostly take place behind closed doors throughout the week. When delegates reappear at the end of the convention next Saturday, they will hold a ceremonial vote to sign Xi’s work report and approve changes to the party’s constitution — which could give Xi new titles to bolster his power.
The delegates will also choose the new Central Committee of the Party, which will hold its first meeting the day after the appointment of the party’s top leadership – the Politburo and its Standing Committee, after decisions already put forward behind the scenes by party leaders before the congress.
The conference will be a major political victory moment for Xi, but it also comes during a period of potential crisis. Xi’s insistence on a relentless no-COVID policy has fueled growing public frustration and stunted economic growth. Meanwhile, diplomatically, his Friendship Without Borders With Russian President Vladimir Putin, Beijing’s relations with the West soured after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
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In the lead-up to the conference, officials across China have dramatically escalated restrictions to prevent an outbreak of the Covid virus, imposing sweeping lockdowns and increasingly frequent mass Covid tests on a handful of cases. However, infections caused by the highly contagious omicron variant continued to flare up. On Saturday, China reported nearly 1,200 infections, including 14 in Beijing.
Public anger towards Zero Covid surfaced on Thursday in An exceptionally rare protest against Xi in Beijing. Online pictures showed a banner being raised on a crowded bridge denouncing Xi and his policies, before police removed them.
Say no to Covid testing, yes to food. No to lockdown, yes to freedom. No to lies, yes to dignity. No to cultural revolution, yes to reform. No to the great leader, yes to voting. One of the signs says: ‘Don’t be a slave, be a citizen’.
“Strike out, drive out the dictator and nationalist traitor Xi Jinping,” the other wrote.
Chinese public opinion has paid little attention to party congresses in the past – they have no say in adjusting the country’s leadership, or making major policies. But this year, many have pinned their hopes on Congress to be a turning point for China to soften its policy on Covid.
However, a series of recent articles in the party’s mouthpiece suggest that this may be wishful thinking. People’s Daily hailed Zero Covid as the “best option” for the country, insisting that it is “sustainable and must be followed.”
On Sunday, Xi defended his controversial and economically destructive zero-Covid-19 policy.
“In response to the sudden outbreak of Covid-19, we have prioritized people and their lives above anything else, and resolutely pursued a dynamic Covid-free policy in waging an all-out war against the virus,” he said.
Alfred Wu, assistant professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said Xi’s words indicate that it is “impossible for China to change its COVID-zero elimination strategy in the near future.”