BEIJING – Na opening of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of Chinathe president Xi Jinpingmade a speech focusing on security, one of his biggest concerns especially after recent tensions in the Strait of Taiwan. He mentioned that he intends to fully control the autonomous island, as he did with Hong Kongand reiterated its objective of peaceful reunification, but without giving up the use of force should it see the need.
In nearly two hours of speech, Xi also defended his controversial policy of covid zerodashing any hope that the measure, which tries to eliminate infections by coronavirus with strict lockdowns, finish in the next few months. Looking to the future, Xi vowed to transform the China in a great modern socialist country that represents a new choice for humanity.
“We will try to pursue the prospect of peaceful reunification with the utmost sincerity and the greatest efforts, but we will never commit to abandoning the use of force,” he said, citing Hong Kong as an example, which he said had came out of chaos to governance after China fully control. Xi repeats in his speech an official Communist Party statement in August on Taiwanin the wake of visit of US lawmaker Nancy Pelosi to the island.
Still about Hong Kong, he defended his crackdown on a pro-democracy movement in the regionsaying the party has helped the former British colony enter a new stage in which it has restored order and is ready to thrive.
To the applause of the nearly 2,300 delegates gathered at the Great Hall of the People in BeijingXi also stressed that “China’s international influence, attractiveness and ability to shape the world have increased significantly.”
According to analysts, in today’s speech, Xi reinforced the Communist Party’s latest white paper, which made Taiwan a key issue in Chinese politics and foreign affairs.. The August document was the third white paper published by the party, the first in 1993 and the last in 2000. In both China pledged not to send troops or officials to the island, a pledge that was revoked this year.
“International forces have turned the Taiwan issue into an international issue, which China has always been reluctant to admit in the past,” said Chen Chien-fu, a professor at the Graduate Institute of China Studies at Tamkang University in New York City. Taipei. “It has always felt that the Taiwan Strait issue is an internal matter and an internal China issue, but now it has become a whole international issue.”
Safety as a priority
China, with the second largest military budget in the world after United States, is trying to extend its range by developing ballistic missiles, aircraft carriers and overseas outposts. “We will work faster to modernize military, personnel and weapons theory,” Xi said. “We will improve the strategic capabilities of the military.”
During the speech, Xi made frequent mention of security objectives and issued a broad warning about potential obstacles ahead. “Be ready to withstand strong winds, rough waters and even dangerous storms,” he said.
His comments represented a shift in the party’s focus towards its greatest concern, which is security, an area in which it seeks to nullify all ideological and geopolitical challenges to the party’s government. By focusing on military expansion and national unity, the leader said little about economicsthe biggest concern of companies, local governments and the population. The speech comes amid a sharp slump in the world’s second-largest economy.compounded by tensions with Washington and its Asian neighbors over trade, technology and security.
When talking about the economy, the leader limited himself to saying that the state should play a greater role in economic management and promised a “development focused on the domestic economy”, without going into details. In a discourse analysis, the New York Times noted that the leader was more concerned with praising Marxism than dealing with markets, which tended to be one of the pillars of his predecessors when speaking at the congress.
“Xi wants to continue his own story,” says Alfred Wu Muluan, an associate professor of public policy at the National University of Singapore, who believes the Chinese president is aiming for a fifth term, well beyond 2027. the country’s number one priority, which prevents commitments at this level, either in terms of South China Sea, in Taiwan or Hong Kong”, adds the professor. “Internationally it will be very difficult.”
The party’s plans call for creating a prosperous society by mid-century and restoring China to its historic role as a political, economic and cultural leader. Beijing has expanded its presence abroad, including a multibillion-dollar initiative by the New Silk Road to build ports and other infrastructure in Asia and Africa, but economists warn that reversing market-style reform could harm growth.
Xi, who was nominated for the party’s top office in 2012, is almost certain to receive a third five-year term at the end of the party meetingdiscarding the precedent of regular transition in power and consolidating a return to strongman rule, similar to the era of Mao Tse-tung. He made no mention of when he intends to step down, with analysts betting he should aim for another ten years rather than five.
“Xi Jinping is aiming not only for a third term, but also a fourth term,” said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation think tank. “He has 10 more years to choose his successor.”
Since Xi took power, China has seen a sweeping expansion of its economy, military strength and role as a global power. But it also faces growing challenges, in part created by Xi himself, including an economy slowed by the forced implementation of his zero-tolerance on Covid, a key policy for him.
Xi’s leadership style, characterized by a preference for dividing people into enemies and friends, means he is not someone willing to compromise, said Chien-Wen Kou, a political scientist at National Chengchi University in Taiwan.
“That tells us how he thinks about dealing with enemies,” Kou said. “He will essentially not compromise on his basic principles, whether it be for China-US ties, relations with Taiwan or his approach to corrupt officials.”
Beijing also faces fresh criticism from Western nations over its aggression against Taiwan and its close partnership with Russia Amid war in ukraine. Xi did not mention the war or the deterioration of Beijing’s relationship with the United States, which ordered export bans earlier this month that could undermine the country’s high-tech aspirations.
Analysts are closely following the six-day meeting for signs that recent criticism of the party may have weakened Xi or other politicians. “In recent years, Xi has placed a lot of emphasis on calling on the party leadership to revive the fighting spirit,” said Dali Yang, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Chicago.
The meeting will end when delegates formally approve Xi’s report and changes to the party’s constitution and choose a new Central Committee. The committee then meets and appoints a new 25-member Politburo and the seven-member Standing Committee, which is the apex of power. Xi is almost certain to be reinstated as general secretary and head of the party’s Central Military Commission, his two most important posts.
Observers wait to see who will be promoted to join him in the Politburo and whether that will bring him any challenge or be a possible loyal successor. But after a decade of Xi concentrating power in his own hands, few consider any change likely. Term limits for the presidency were scrapped in 2018, paving the way for Xi to rule for life if he so chooses./AP, AFP, NYT and W.POST