China's President Opens Biennial National Congress

Carla Harmon
October 18, 2017

At the opening day of a seven-day 19th Party Congress of CPC, Xi's speech was peppered with national rejuvenation, Chinese socialism, loyalty to the party and China's achievements in the past five years. "No one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests", Xi said at the iconic venue.

China and India ended in August over two months of military stand-off at Dokalm on their border.

Some believe that at age 64, Xi is maneuvering to stay on after 2022 - which would violate an unwritten rule that top leaders can not take office past age 67.

Xi's speech, delivered in the cavernous Great Hall of the People overlooking Beijing's Tiananmen Square, lasted for a full three-and-a half hours and traced the broad outlines of his vision and the party's policies. China was engaged in a number of maritime disputes with the neighbours in the South and East China seas. Several new party leaders will also be selected during the congress, including new members of the ruling Politburo Standing Committee.

On a rain-soaked morning, Xi said military mechanization would be achieved by 2020 and the application of IT in the force had come a long way.

Other Chinese leaders have regularly warned since the 2008 financial crisis that China's economic growth faces "downward pressure" due to weak global demand that threatens export industries in the world's second-largest economy.

The modernisation of the national defence and armed forces should be basically completed by 2035, by which the "armed forces have been fully transformed into world-class military forces", he said.

Xi has carried massive military reforms and chose to cut the number of troops to below one million.

Unlike the militaries elsewhere, the Chinese military functions directly under the leadership of the party.

Xi, the Chairman of China's Central Military Commission, called for unflinching loyalty from the Army towards the party.

Xi also vowed to reunite self-ruled Taiwan with China.

"We must unwaveringly uphold and improve Party leadership and make the Party still stronger", he said.

Xi argued that only a stronger Communist Party could lead the nation to its historic destiny, saying the party must be in charge of all aspects of China's politics, economics and society.

By heading the party, presidency and the military, Xi has emerged as the most powerful leader in the country.

Observers will be watching the congress meeting this week for signs of whether Xi may be looking to appoint a successor to take over after his traditional second five-year term in office.

In his speech, Xi also pledged to make a sweeping victory in its fight against corruption.

"The fight against corruption has formed an overwhelming posture and strengthened in development", he said.

"We must enhance the political loyalty of the armed forces", Xi said, adding that focus must be on combat.

Since he took over power, more than 280 centrally- administered officials were investigated and over 1.4 million officials were punished, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

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