President Xi Jinping has assured China’s jittery neighbours that Beijing is ready to resolve its disputes through dialogue but not at the expense of its strategic interests. Xi spoke at the key meeting of the ruling Communist party elite that will boost his grip on power with a second term and even an unprecedented third innings.
Xi, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), called the progress China had made under his watch “truly remarkable,” but told the over 2,000 delegates attending the 19th Party Congress that more needed to be done as the country moves towards a goal of “national rejuvenation”.
“Our party, our people, our forces, and our nation have changed in ways without precedent,” the 64-year-old top leader said from the Great Hall of the People adjoining the Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing on the opening day of the week-long meeting.
He said China will never pursue development at the expense of others, nor will China ever give up its legitimate rights and interests.
“No one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests,” he said amid thumping applause from over 2,300 delegates who attended the meeting.
About the neighbours, Xi said China would “deepen relations its neighbours in accordance with the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness and the policy of forging friendship and partnership…We should commit to settling disputes through dialogue and resolving differences through discussion, coordinate responses to traditional and non-traditional threats and oppose terrorism in all its forms,” he added.
His comments assume significance in the backdrop of the recent military standoff between India and China in Doklam area in the Sikkim sector. China was engaged in a number of maritime disputes with the neighbours in the South and East China seas.
In his address, Xi also vowed make the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) a world class military during his over a three-and-a half hour speech at the once-in-a-five-year Congress which is set to confirm his second term and anoint a new generation of leaders to work with him.
The modernisation of the national defence and armed forces should be completed by 2035, by which the “armed forces have been fully transformed into world-class military forces,” he said.
The Chinese military, which underwent a massive reform drive since Xi took over power in 2012, has over USD 141 billion annual budget next only to the US military.
Unlike the militaries elsewhere, the Chinese military functions directly under the leadership of the party. Xi is the Chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high command of the PLA.
Xi also devoted his address to mostly to strengthening the CPC, which has ruled the country since 1949.
“We must unwaveringly uphold and improve party leadership and make the Party still stronger,” he said.
By heading the party, presidency and the military, Xi has emerged as the most powerful leader in the country. His ideological teachings are expected to be made part of the amended CPC Constitution during the Congress to ensure his legacy. Only the names of Mao and Deng were part of the CPC Constitution.
In his speech, Xi also pledged to make a sweeping victory in his fight against corruption.
(With inputs from agencies)