China's President Xi Jinping waves as he arrives for the opening session of the 20th Chinese Communist Party's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sunday. AFP
Xi, speaking at the opening of a twice-a-decade party congress that is expected to give him a third five-year term, extolled the achievements of the past five years and said the party would strive to achieve what it calls the "rejuvenation” of the nation.
"Our future is bright, but we still have a long way to go,” Xi said to the more than 2,000 delegates attending the opening, held in the massive Great Hall of the People that overlooks Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing.
"We must foster a firmer sense of purpose, fortitude and self-belief in the whole party and the Chinese people so that we cannot be swayed by fallacies, deterred by intimidation or cowed by pressure,” he said.
A third term for Xi would break with recent precedent and further establish him as arguably the most powerful Chinese politician since Mao Zedong.
Delegates attend the opening session at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sunday. AFP
Xi called for further investments in the party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, and reaffirmed that China will not rule out using force to bring the self-governing island of Taiwan under its control.
"Reunification definitely must be achieved and reunification definitely will be achieved,” he said.
Taiwan and China split during a civil war in 1949 that brought the communists to power in China. Many Taiwanese reject the term "reunification,” saying they were never part of communist China.
With Xi expected to remain, little change is foreseen in China's economic and foreign policies, as well as in his intolerance of criticism and hardline approach to COVID-19 including quarantines and travel bans.
Delegates leave after the opening session at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sunday. AFP
Xi defended the pandemic response, saying it "put the people and their lives above all else.”
The weeklong congress, the 20th in the history of the century-old party, comes as the economy is facing major headwinds from a sharp real estate slowdown, the war in Ukraine and the economic toll on tourism, retail and manufacturing from COVID-19 restrictions.
As with most Chinese political events, little information has been released beforehand and the outcome will only be announced next weekend, after days of closed-door sessions.
The congress will likely approve an amendment to its charter that could further elevate Xi's status as leader.
The spokesperson for the congress, Sun Yeli, offered few details at a news conference Saturday. He said the changes would "meet new requirements for advancing the party’s development and work in the face of new circumstances and new tasks.”
All party members will be obliged to "uphold Comrade Xi Jinping's core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole", according to a unanimously passed resolution on changes to the party charter.
The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party elected Xi as its general secretary for another five-year term, Xinhua reported, tilting the country decisively back towards one-man rule after decades of power-sharing among its elite.
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