China will not renounce use of force over Taiwan, Xi says as Communist Party congress begins

‘Rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is an irreversible, historical course,’ says president Xi

Vishwam Sankaran
Sunday 16 October 2022 18:11 BST
TODAY China-CPC Congress/Opening

Chinese president Xi Jinping said China would not renounce the right to use force over Taiwan, in his opening speech at the ruling Communist Party’s 20th congress in Beijing.

The Chinese president said it is up to the Chinese people to resolve the Taiwan issue, in the speech addressing over 2,300 delegates at the Great Hall of the People.

He said China must also ensure Hong Kong is ruled by patriots, adding that China will support Hong Kong in integrating with the mainland.

The “one country, two systems” system is the best for Hong Kong and it must be adhered to in the long run, president Xi said at the twice-a-decade Communist Party conference, where he is expected to receive a third five-year term as the country’s leader.

With Mr Xi set to remain in power for the next term, many of his policies are expected to continue, including his government’s intolerance to criticism and the stern zero-Covid policy, which he defended saying it “put people and their lives above all else”.

While critics have pointed out that the hardline policy has taken a toll on the country’s real estate sector and the tourism industry, he said it “achieved significant positive results in coordinating epidemic prevention and control and social and economic development”.

At the congress, he spoke of the achievements of the last five years, praising the communist party’s achievements in eradicating poverty, its health and social welfare systems, and in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said his party would work hard to meet its goals to achieve what it calls China’s "rejuvenation”.

"The rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is an irreversible, historical course," he said, according to Associated Press.

In his two-hour-long speech, he also reiterated support for the private sector, calling on the party to build a “high-level socialist market economic system”.

“The next five years will be crucial,” Xi said in the televised speech that comes as China’s economy is going through a slump with growing tension with the US, Japan, and India.

Beijing also has ongoing feuds with its Asian neighbours over claims to the South China and East China Seas and a section of the Himalayas, with the US, Japan, Australia and India forming, in response, a strategic group called the Quad.

Mr Xi also called for faster military development as he announced there would be no change in his strained foreign policies with the US.

“We will work faster to modernise military theory, personnel and weapons. We will enhance the military’s strategic capabilities,” he reportedly said.

In the run-up to the congress in Beijing, the Chinese government also ramped up security measures, increasing public surveillance and censorship of media and the internet.

Last week, social media posts of rare protest banners, mounted from a bridge in Beijing criticising the Xi government, were removed, and accounts of those who forwarded them on the social media app WeChat were shut down.

In the lead-up to the communist party congress, steel mills in the nearby Hebei province were also instructed to slow down operations to improve air quality, Al Jazeera reported.

The president was also reportedly joined by his Communist Party predecessors, including previous party leader, Hu Jintao, former Premier Wen Jiabao and Song Ping, a 105-year-old party veteran.

Analysts see the presence of other Communist Party leaders at the event as an indication that Xi does not face any serious opposition, as his government continues to face criticism over human rights abuses and the mass detention of its mostly Muslim ethnic groups as well as the jailing of critics.

While the proceedings of the congress are shrouded in secrecy as with most Chinese political events, the event is expected to produce a new set of leaders who would likely be handpicked by Mr Xi.

Taiwan reacted shortly after the speech, saying it would not back down on its sovereignty and that the self-ruled island would not compromise on its freedom and democracy.

The Taiwanese presidential office said its people clearly oppose China’s idea of “one country, two systems” management for Taiwan.

It said maintaining peace and stability in the region is a common responsibility of both sides, adding that meeting on the battlefield is not an option.

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