Chinese President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader in decades, presented his vision for his country and its role in the world at China’s most important political event of the year Wednesday.
Speaking before delegates and officials at the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi heralded the arrival of a “new era” of Chinese power. Since he took office as the Chinese leader five years ago, he has attempted to dramatically reshape the Chinese economy with an emphasis on quality over speed, modernize the military to win wars in the information age, and strengthen the party around his “core” leadership through an alleged anti-corruption campaign which has resulted in the purge of over one million government officials.
He has advocated a policy known as the “Chinese Dream,” an ambitious strategy to revitalize Chinese development and restore the country’s great power status. The Chinese president is now calling for a more forceful push.
After decades of “tireless struggle,” China now stands “tall and firm in the East,” Xi said Wednesday.
“The Chinese nation is a great nation; it has been through hardships and adversity but remains indomitable,” he announced. “The Chinese people are a great people; they are industrious and brave, and they never pause in pursuit of progress.”
“The Chinese nation,” he explained, “has stood up, grown rich, and become strong – and it now embraces the brilliant prospects of rejuvenation. It will be an era that sees China moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind.” He stressed that “socialism with Chinese characteristics in this new era” has become “a new choice” for countries, adding that under this system, China has emerged as a “great power.”
“No one political system should be regarded as the only choice and we should not just mechanically copy the political systems of other countries,” he explained, adding, “The political system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is a great creation.”
“Let us get behind the strong leadership of the party and engage in a tenacious struggle,” he asserted, hinting that purges may continue when he said that China must “rid ourselves of any virus that erodes the party’s health.” He described the anti-corruption campaign as a “crushing tide,” stating, that the party must”remain as firm as a rock … and secure sweeping victory.”
Xi argued that China is not a threat to other countries, a point China has been making for years to counter the “China Threat Theory.”
He claimed that China does not seek hegemony — although China defines this term differently than the West — but he explained that no one ” should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests.” Xi’s statement suggests that China may pursue a more assertive agenda when it comes to it’s national interests. This policy approach could be reflected in China’s South China Sea, Korea, and international trade strategies.
During the speech, which was sprinkled with notably assertive language, the Chinese leader celebrated the construction of artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, where China is engaging in rapid militarization.
He appeared to suggest that China will step up as U.S. power declines in the international community, explaining, “No country alone can address the many challenges facing mankind. No country can afford to retreat into self-isolation.” He argued that China has “taken a driving seat in international cooperation,” emphasizing China’s climate initiatives.
“China’s voice is going to be much louder and more pronounced,” Scott Kennedy, director of the Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, explained to U.S. News. prior to the event. The Chinese president’s speech suggests that this prediction may have been on the mark.
The speech delivered in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing lasted a little over three hours.
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