China’s Xi Jinping calls for increased military as party congress opens

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Sunday called for accelerated military development and announced no change in policies that have strained relations with Washington and tightened the ruling Communist Party’s control over society and the economy.

China’s most influential figures in decades speak at opening of party congress Companies, governments and the public are watching this closely for signs of official direction. It comes amid a painful recession in the world’s second-largest economy and tensions with Washington and its Asian neighbors over trade, technology and security.

The party’s plan calls for a prosperous society by mid-century that restores China’s historic status as a political, economic and cultural leader. Beijing has expanded its influence overseas, including through the multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road initiative to build ports and other infrastructure in Asia and Africa, but economists warn that reversing market-oriented reforms could hamper growth .

“The next five years are crucial,” Xi Jinping delivered a one-hour, 45-minute televised address to some 2,000 delegates in the huge Great Hall of the People. He has repeatedly invoked the slogan of “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” which includes restoring the party’s role as an economic and social leader, returning to what Xi Jinping sees as a golden age after he took power in 1949.

The assembly will appoint leaders for the next five years. Xi Jinping, 69, is expected to break with tradition And granted himself a third five-year term as general secretary and promoted allies who shared his passion for party rule.

The People’s Liberation Army, the party’s military arm, needs to “maintain China’s dignity and core interests,” Xi said, referring to a series of territorial claims and other issues that Beijing has said it is ready to go to war.

China, which has the world’s second-largest military budget after the United States, is trying to expand its influence by developing ballistic missiles, aircraft carriers and overseas outposts.

Xi Jinping pointed out that the modernization of military theory, personnel and weapons should be accelerated. “We will enhance the military’s strategic capabilities.”

Xi Jinping called his government’s draconian “zero-coronavirus” strategy, which has closed major cities and disrupted travel and commerce, a success. Despite public dismay at its rising costs, he gave no indication of any possible change.

The assembly will appoint a standing committee, the ruling inner circle of power. The lineup will show at next year’s meeting of China’s legislature who is likely to succeed Premier Li Keqiang as the top economic official among other roles.

Analysts are watching to see if economic growth slips Falling below half of the official 5.5 percent annual target could force Xi to compromise and include proponents of market-oriented reforms and entrepreneurs who create wealth and jobs.

Xi did not indicate when he might step down.

During his decade in power, Xi’s government has pursued an increasingly hard-line foreign policy while tightening its grip on information and dissent at home.

quarrel in beijing There are conflicts with the governments of Japan, India and Southeast Asia over the South and East China Seas and parts of the Himalayas. In response, the United States, Japan, Australia and India formed a strategic group called the Quartet.

The party has strengthened the dominance of state-owned industries and invested heavily in strategic initiatives aimed at fostering Chinese creators of renewable energy, electric vehicles, computer chips, aerospace and other technologies.

Its tactics sparked complaints that Beijing was inappropriately protecting and subsidizing its fledgling creators, and led then-President Donald Trump to raise tariffs on Chinese imports in 2019, sparking a trade war that shook the global economy. . Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, has maintained those penalties and this month increased restrictions on China’s access to U.S. chip technology.

The party has tightened its grip on private sector leaders, including e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, by launching antitrust, data security and other crackdowns. Under political pressure, they spend billions on chip development and other partisan initiatives. Their shares tumbled in foreign exchange trading amid uncertainty about the future.

The party has stepped up censorship of the media and the internet, increased public scrutiny and increased control over private life through its “social credit” initiative, which tracks individuals and punishes offenses ranging from fraud to littering.

Last week, banners criticizing Xi Jinping and “Zero Virus” In a rare protest, they were suspended from an elevated road above a major thoroughfare in Beijing. Photos of the event were removed from social media, and the popular WeChat messaging app shut down accounts that retweeted them.

Xi said the party would build “self-reliance and strength” in technology by improving China’s education system and attracting foreign experts.

The president appears to be doubling down on technological self-reliance and “zero coronavirus” at a time when other countries are easing travel restrictions and relying on freer-flowing supply chains, said William Lam, a political expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. .

Xi’s former leader Hu Jintao, former premier Wen Jiabao and 105-year-old party veteran Song Pingping, a party leader who supported Xi’s early career, joined Xi on stage. Former president Jiang Zemin, 96, was party leader until 2002.

Lim said the former leader’s presence showed Xi was not facing serious opposition.

“Xi Jinping has made it clear that he intends to remain in power as long as his health allows,” he said.

Xi made no mention of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Beijing rejected criticism. He defended the crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, saying the party helped the former British colony “enter into a new phase of restoring order and hopefully thriving”.

Xi’s government has also faced criticism for mass detentions and other abuses targeting the majority Muslim community and jailing of government critics.

Amnesty International has warned that extending Xi Jinping’s rule would be a “human rights disaster”. In addition to the domestic situation in China, it pointed to Beijing’s efforts to “redefine what human rights really mean” at the United Nations.

Xi said Beijing refused to give up the possibility of using force against Taiwan, an autonomous island democracy claimed by the Communist Party as its territory. The two sides split after a civil war in 1949.

Beijing has stepped up its efforts to terrorize Taiwanese by flying fighter jets and bombers over the island. The movement intensified after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August became the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.

“We will continue to fight for peaceful reunification,” Xi said. “But we will never commit to renounce the use of force. We reserve the option to take all necessary measures.”

The Taiwanese government responded by saying its 23 million people had the right to decide their own future and would not accept Beijing’s demands. A government statement called on China to “abandon the imposition of political frameworks and the use of force and coercion”.

The Communist Party leadership agreed in the 1990s to limit the term of the general secretary to two five-year terms to prevent a repeat of the power struggles of previous decades. The leader will also be chairman of the committee that controls the military and holds the title of president of the country.

Xi Jinping made his intentions clear in 2018, when he removed the two-term limit on presidential terms from China’s constitution. Officials say Xi can stay if reforms are needed.

After adding Xi’s personal ideology, “Xi Jinping Thought,” to the last congress in 2017, the party is expected to revise its charter this week to improve Xi’s leadership.

Conference spokesman Sun Yeli said Saturday The changes will “meet new requirements to advance the party’s development,” without giving details.

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