President Xi strikes belligerent tone at CPC centenary, says China won't be bullied by any 'foreign force'

·6-min read

Beijing, Jul 1 (PTI) Any 'foreign force' trying to 'bully' China will encounter a 'great wall of steel' erected by over 1.4 billion Chinese people and its powerful military, President Xi Jinping warned on Thursday, as the ruling Communist Party celebrated its centenary with a massive show of strength at the historic Tiananmen Square here.

In his keynote address at a highly-choreographed ceremony from the balcony of Tiananmen Gate, which also adorns a giant size photo of 'Chairman' Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People's Republic of China, Xi also underlined that the 'reunification' of Taiwan with the Chinese mainland is a 'historic mission' and an 'unshakable commitment' of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Xi, who is also the General Secretary of the CPC and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, warned that any “foreign force” will be allowed to bully China, an apparent reference to the US.

China has repeatedly accused the US of trying to curb its 'peaceful rise', amidst concern in the neighbourhood about the growing assertiveness of the Chinese military in the strategic Indo-Pacific region and elsewhere.

Both former US president Donald Trump and his successor Joe Biden have pursued a hardline policy towards China, targeting it on several fronts including trade, human rights and the origins of the COVID-19, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan before becoming a pandemic.

'We Chinese are a people who uphold justice and are not intimidated by threats of force…We have never bullied, oppressed, or subjugated the people of any other country, and we never will,' Xi said.

'By the same token, we will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress, or subjugate us,' the 68-year old leader said.

'Anyone who would attempt to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people,' he said.

Over 70,000 carefully vetted party workers and schoolchildren who took part in the event cheered Xi’s over an hour-long speech which was telecast live.

About 71 aircraft participated in the flypast which also included China’s most advanced J-20 stealth fighter jets, helicopters, fighter jet trainers and others.

In a show of unity, some of the top party leaders of the past and present including Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao and former premier Wen Jiabao attended the celebration.

Designated as the “core” leader of the CPC, Xi, who is regarded as the most powerful leader after Mao with life long tenure at the helm appeared in a grey Mao suit synonymous with the attire sported by the party founder 100 years ago.

In his speech, Xi also warned against underestimating China’s resolve to integrate the self-administered island of Taiwan with the Chinese mainland stating that it is a historic mission of the ruling party.

No one should underestimate the great resolve, the strong will, and the extraordinary ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said.

The issue of Taiwan is also a major source of tension between Beijing and Washington. While democratic Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign state, China views the island as a breakaway province.

The US, under its own laws, is required to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself should China use military force to take the island back. Of late, Beijing has been conducting intrusive military exercises over Taiwan's airspace.

Turning to party matters, Xi said the CPC “must” uphold the “core” position of the General Secretary, one of the three posts he is currently holding besides the Presidency and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) the overall high command of the Chinese military.

A constitutional amendment doing away with the two terms limit of President has given himself an opportunity to remain in power for life, which critics potentially very destabilising for the party in the future in the absence of a successor.

Calling for the hastening of the modernisation of China’s military, his pet theme ever since he took over power in 2012, Xi said: 'We must accelerate the modernisation of national defence and the armed forces'.

He said China will elevate its armed forces to world-class standards so that 'we are equipped with greater capacity and more reliable means for safeguarding our national sovereignty, security, and development interests.' Founded by Mao on July 1, 1921, the CPC formally completed 100 years of existence on Thursday. It has monopolised political power since the People's Republic of China (PRC) was founded in 1949.

Highlighting the importance of the CPC to China, Xi said any attempt to divide it from the Chinese people is 'bound to fail'.

'The more than 95 million party members and the more than 1.4 billion Chinese people will never allow such a scenario to come to pass,' Xi said.

He also spoke strongly against dissent in the party saying that 'any viruses that would erode CPC's health” should be rooted out.

The CPC must remain committed to improving its conduct, upholding integrity, and combating corruption, he said.

“We must uphold firm leadership of the party. China’s success hinges on the party. History provides ample evidence that without the CPC, there will be no new China and no national rejuvenation,' he said.

In an apparent reference to the US allegations of genocide committed against minority Uygur Muslims of Xinjiang as well as the imposition of the national security law in Hong Kong, much against the will of the local people, Xi said 'we are eager to learn what lessons we can from the achievements of other cultures, and welcome helpful suggestions and constructive criticism'.

'We will not, however, accept sanctimonious preaching from those who feel they have the right to lecture us,' he said.

Turning to economy, Xi said landmark reforms have enabled China to transform itself from a highly centralised planned economy to a socialist market economy brimming with vitality, and from a country that was largely isolated to one that is open to the outside world across the board.

It also enabled China to achieve the historic leap from a country with relatively backward productive forces to the world’s second largest economy, and to make the historic transformation of raising the living standards of its people from bare subsistence to an overall level of moderate prosperity, he said.

'These achievements fuelled the push toward national rejuvenation by providing institutional guarantees imbued with new energy as well as the material conditions for rapid development,' Xi added. PTI KJV NSA AKJ AKJ

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