Xi Jinping hails new era of Chinese power at Communist Party congress

‘Hold high the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics,’ leader urges in epic speech

President Xi Jinping arriving for the opening session of China’s Communist Party congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on  Wednesday. Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

President Xi Jinping arriving for the opening session of China’s Communist Party congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday. Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

 

President Xi Jinping hailed a historic new age of Chinese power at the start of a decisive Communist Party congress in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, realising the Chinese Dream of a “moderately prosperous” society built on solid Marxist principles.

Addressing more than 2,300 gathered delegates as “comrades” throughout a speech that ran for nearly 3½ hours, Mr Xi said the Communist Party had met the basic needs of more than a billion people and would now begin completing the project of socialist modernisation.

“Through a long period of hard work, socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, this is a new historical direction in our country’s development,” Mr Xi told the delegates, with the 91-year-old former president Jiang Zemin sitting behind him.

The speech opened the twice-a-decade congress that in a week’s time will end with the selection of a new ruling elite on the standing committee of the politburo, which will run China for the next five years.

“We will unite the Chinese people of all ethnic groups and lead them to a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and in the drive to secure the success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era,” he said.

Rallying call

While the address was high on rhetoric and Marxist dialectic, it was low on specific details and can be seen more as a rallying call at the start of the congress, which is expected to give Mr Xi a firm grip on power as head of the one-party state.

He was fulsome in his praise of the anti-corruption campaign, which has netted some high-profile “tigers” in the party’s upper echelons, including some key political rivals of Mr Xi, as well as hundreds of thousands of “flies” among the lower cadres.

Corruption was “the greatest threat” to the party, but the anti-graft campaign had “gained overwhelming momentum” and was assured of victory.

On self-ruled Taiwan, Mr Xi said the party had succeeded in preventing independence moves there in the part five years. He also included “achieving China’s reunification” as one of the three historic tasks facing the party, along with advancing modernisation and “preserving world peace and promoting common development”.

China’s former president Jiang Zemin reads Xi Jinping’s speech with a magnifying glass. Photograph: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images
China’s former president Jiang Zemin reads Xi Jinping’s speech with a magnifying glass. Photograph: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

Mr Xi also outlined his own political philosophy, “Xi Jinping Thought”, which will likely be enshrined in China’s constitution during the congress, a way of ensuring his legacy as he enters his second five-year term.

The “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” would further enrich existing principles of Marxism-Leninism, as well as the philosophies of his predecessors Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.

“It represents the latest achievement in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context,” he said. “The Marxism of 21st century China will, without a doubt, emanate a more mighty, more compelling power of truth.”

‘Socialist democracy’

Mr Xi, who is general secretary of the party as well as president and head of the central military commission, reiterated his view that “socialist democracy” rather than western-style elective representation was the way forward for the people of China.

“We should not just mechanically copy the political systems of other countries,” he said.

“We have every confidence that we can give full play to the strengths and distinctive features of China’s socialist democracy, and make China’s contribution to the political advancement of mankind.”

In contrast to isolationist messages emanating from Washington, Mr Xi said China would relax rules on foreign investment to make it easier for overseas firms to operate in China. European firms often complain of a lack of level playing fields.

“All businesses registered in China will be treated equally,” he said, while reiterating his globalisation message, saying he would expand foreign trade.

He ended the speech urging the party and the people to “realise the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation, and see that our people realise their aspirations for a better life”.