China’s Xi opens CCP congress stressing security, pressure on Taiwan


“We will never promise to renounce the use of force,” Xi said of Taiwan to wide applause.

China's Xi opens CCP congress stressing security, pressure on Taiwan

China’s President Xi Jinping speaks during the opening session of the 20th Chinese Communist Party’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing , Oct. 16, 2022.

The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which convened in Beijing on Oct. 16 for a week, is expected to grant an unprecedented third five-year term to Xi Jinping, the CCP general secretary and state president. In the run up to the congress, RFA has examined the 69-year-old Xi’s decade at the helm of the world’s most populous nation in a series of reports on Hong Kong, foreign policy, intellectuals, civil society and rural poverty.

President Xi Jinping touted his record in fighting COVID-19 and suppressing political protests in Hong Kong on Sunday, as he launched a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress with a heavy focus on security and a vow to keep up pressure on democratic Taiwan.

Xi, 69, is expected to emerge of the week-long congress in Beijing with a third five-year term, breaking recent party norms and becoming China’s most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong.

Xi Jinping called on the party to “prepare to stand the major test of turbulent, even stormy waves,” warning the nearly 2,300 delegates inside the Great Hall of the People that the next five years will be a critical period.

“At the same time, we must uphold and strengthen the CCP’s comprehensive leadership. We must take political security as the foundation, economic security as the foundation, and military, technological, cultural and social security as the guarantee,” he said.

“We must strengthen our sense of hardship, adhere to the bottom-line thinking, be prepared for danger in times of peace, prepare for a rainy day, and be ready to withstand major tests of high winds and high waves,” he said.

Xi hailed as successes Chinese policies that have caused friction with the United States and other Western countries, such as the crushing of Hong Kong’s democracy movement after 2019 protests in the city, and the intensification of military threats to underscore Beijing’s claim of sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan.

The Chinese government had turned Hong Kong from “chaos to governance,” and carried out “major struggles” against “independence forces” in Taiwan, Xi said.

‘Wheels of history’

He said China would “strive for peaceful reunification” — but repeated a longstanding threat to the democratic island.

“We will never promise to renounce the use of force and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary.”

“The wheels of history are rolling on towards China’s reunification and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Complete reunification of our country must be realized,” Xi said to long, loud applause from the delegates.

In a speech that critics said glossed over the economic damage and public anger sparked by the CCP’s “zero-COVID” policies of lockdowns and quarantines, Xi reiterated his intention to stay the course.

“We have adhered to the supremacy of the people and the supremacy of life, adhered to dynamic zero-COVID … and achieved major positive results in the overall prevention and control of the epidemic, and economic and social development,” Xi said.

Reuters news agency tallied that in his full work report, Xi used the terms “security” or “safety” 89 times, up from 55 times in 2017, while his use of the word “reform” declined to 48 from 68 mentions five years ago.

Analysts told RFA that Xi’s keynote speech effectively pointed to a reversal of previous policies and toward harsher political controls.

“This report has only talked about reform and opening up a few times–indeed very few. It mainly replaces reform and opening up with the words of self-confidence and self-improvement,” said independent scholar Wen Zhigang.

“Struggle and security are included in this so-called self-confidence and self-improvement,” he said Wen. “Struggle seems to have replaced reform, and security has replaced openness.”

Security paramount

Commentator Hong Lin said Xi’s report stressed three dimensions of security.

“The first is political security, the second is the state-owned economy, and the third is military-first politics,” said Hong.

Whole previous reports were dominated by economic development, “political security may be the area they are most concerned about now,” he added.

“How to ensure that their ruling status is not threatened: This is his only direction and the only consensus within the party,” added Hong.

Heightened discussion of security “is not surprising because on several fronts, China has much more to be concerned about today than five years ago,” Ja Ian Chong, associate professor of political science, National University Of Singapore, told Reuters.

“First, the competition with the U.S. has got more intense, then there is the uncertainty surrounding the war in Ukraine and Xi’s support for Putin. The world today looks more contentious than the world five years ago, “

The congress is expected to reconfirm Xi as party general secretary, China’s most powerful post, as well as chairman of the Central Military Commission., while replacing other senior party leaders in a vote on October 23. Xi’s state presidency looks set to be renewed in March at the annual session of China’s rubber-stamp parliament.

Written by Paul Eckert.

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