Xi’s ambitions and concerns: 5 takeaways from the centenary speech


BEIJING – Chinese President Xi Jinping used the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party to praise China’s economic achievements and expose China’s ambitions without failing to warn foreign rivals against interference in the country’s internal affairs .

The CCP’s centenary on July 1 was deemed so important that its government in Beijing mobilized some 70,000 people to gather in the capital’s Tiananmen Square for a 90-minute event.

Founded by 13 leaders including Mao Zedong in 1921 at a time of upheaval and poverty caused by civil war, the CCP has grown into a gigantic political organization with over 95 million members. Its Marxist-centric socialist governance runs deep in government, eclipsing every level of society, including business.

Here are the takeaways from Xi’s one-hour centenary speech.

Prologue to Xi’s third term and China’s next centenary

Xi welcomes the end of a 100th anniversary event in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on July 1. © Reuters

Thursday’s celebration was used to mark one of two centennial goals set in 1997 by the party leadership under Jiang Zeming, who planned to build a “moderately prosperous society” by 2021.

Efforts gathered pace under Xi, who came to power in 2012. In particular, he oversaw poverty eradication programs that were accelerated through lavish budget spending in rural areas.

As a result, nearly 100 million people were lifted out of absolute poverty in November, according to Beijing’s poverty line of 1.60 yuan per day ($ 1), below the threshold of $ 1.90 set by the World Bank. .

“We have achieved the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects,” Xi said.

It is also a necessary achievement for Xi in his quest for a third term, which will be officially determined next year when the CCP holds its national convention once every five years. If he gets a third term, which will be decided by the powerful Party Central Committee, Xi will break the standard of up to two five-year terms set by former leader Deng Xiaoping to avoid man-made disasters like political failures show it. during Mao’s lifelong reign.

“Today, [the CCP] rally and lead the Chinese people on a new journey towards achieving the second centenary goal, ”said Xi, who removed the two-term clause in a constitutional change in 2018.

The goal calls for China to be the most powerful economy in the world by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.

Xi, who turned 68 last month, may not be here then, but he certainly wants it to be part of the party’s legacy.

The story stands out

Xi and other leaders stand over a giant portrait of the late Chairman Mao Zedong during the event in Tiananmen Square on July 1. © Reuters

Xi’s speech was peppered with references to the country’s past successes and failures.

“After the Opium War of 1840, however, China was gradually reduced to a semi-colonial, semi-feudal society and suffered greater devastation than ever.”

Xi also drew attention to the wars against the Japanese Nationalist Party led by Chiang Kai-shek, paying tribute to revolutionary leaders such as Mao, Zhou Enlai and Deng.

“Through the Northern Expedition, the Agrarian Revolutionary War, the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the War of Liberation, we fought the armed counterrevolution with the armed revolution… establishing the People’s Republic of China, which made the people master of the land. . “

Little has been said about the CCP-led policies such as the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, or the June 4 crackdown on Tiananmen Square that collectively claimed millions of lives.

Before the centenary on July 1, Xi opened a new museum in Beijing dedicated to presenting the history of the Chinese Communist Party. Across the country, similar facilities have been built or renovated, as the reminder of the party’s 100 years of achievements has been a recurring story.

“Only socialism could save China, and only socialism with Chinese characteristics could develop China,” Xi said in his speech.

He went further, calling the 2049 goal a dream of “great rejuvenation” or ultimate redemption from the humiliations brought by foreign forces.

The call of the “wolf warriors”

Police raised a warning banner in Hong Kong on July 1 after authorities refused permission to hold a protest rally on the 24th anniversary of the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule. © Reuters

There was also a bit of wolf warrior diplomacy in Xi’s speech. While saying that China is eager to learn from the achievements of other cultures and welcomes helpful suggestions and constructive criticism from the outside world, “however, we will not accept preaching preaching from those who feel they have the right to do so. the lesson, ”he said. .

Xi spoke of Hong Kong, where a growing pro-democracy movement that gained momentum in 2019 has been largely eradicated. The president reminded the special administrative region that Beijing now has rights to global jurisdiction with the implementation of the controversial national security law last year.

“We will remain true to the letter and spirit of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, under which the people of Hong Kong rule Hong Kong and the people of Macao rule Macau, both with a high degree of autonomy. “Xi insisted.

Taiwan has not been spared. “Solving the Taiwan question and achieving the full reunification of China is a historic mission and an unwavering commitment of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Xi vowed to crush any attempt to declare independence for Taiwan, which Beijing sees as its renegade region.

The United States and its allies were also on Xi’s radar, although they were not named. “We will never allow any foreign force to intimidate, oppress or submit to us,” he said. “Anyone attempting to do so would find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by more than 1.4 billion Chinese.”

In China, the gap between rich and poor is widening and friction with ethnic minorities is increasing. The United States and others criticized China’s control over Muslim-majority Uyghurs as a human rights issue, but Xi did not speak directly to it in his speech.

“Looking at the way we have come and moving forward for the road ahead, it is certain that with the firm leadership of the party and the great unity of the Chinese people of all ethnic groups, we will achieve the goal of building a great modern socialist country in all respects and realize the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation. “

Are people with Xi?

Military planes fly over Beijing during the anniversary celebrations on July 1. © Reuters

The president notably called on the nation’s youth to make it “their mission” to help make China the world’s dominant economic power by 2049.

It is difficult to assess how many people are listening given China’s authoritarian one-party regime that controls the media.

A glance through relatively open social media suggests growing frustration among young Chinese people with the mad race for a better life, so much so that they coined the term grab, or lay flat. Secularists are generally self-centered and less ambitious, alarming the Chinese government as it grapples with the country’s declining birth rate and uncertain economic growth.

Is China’s strong image projection winning friends?

Xi’s speech was preceded by the aerial demonstration of advanced weapons such as J-20 stealth fighter jets and attack helicopters.

A majority – 69% – of the public in 17 developed economies, including Germany, Japan and Singapore, have an unfavorable view of China and Xi’s leadership on the world stage, according to the latest Pew Research Center poll of United States June 30.

Likewise, 62.4% of those polled in China’s neighbors in Southeast Asia expressed concern over its militarization in the South China Sea, according to a February study by Singaporean think tank ISEAS-Yusof Ishak. Institute.


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