Xi: Reunification by force still option

BEIJING, China (AFP) — President Xi Jinping kicked off China’s five-yearly Communist Party Congress on Sunday with a wide-ranging speech defending Beijing’s zero-Covid approach, hailing its anti-graft efforts and reasserting its ambition to absorb Taiwan, by force if necessary.

The speech at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People gave Xi an opportunity to tout his government’s achievements to the conclave’s roughly 2,300 delegates, who are expected to hand him a historic third term in power at the end of the week.

Xi began his speech by hailing the Communist Party’s rule and noting that the gathering came at a crucial time.

“The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is a very important congress convened at a critical moment,” he said.

Putting ‘lives first’

After weathering months of criticism over the effects of his country’s strict zero-Covid policy, Xi said China had put “the people and their lives first” when dealing with the pandemic.

He said China had “protected people’s safety and health to the highest degree and achieved significant positive results in coordinating epidemic prevention and control and social and economic development.”

Hong Kong and Taiwan

China’s increasing assertiveness in the Taiwan Strait, as well as its moves to snuff out dissent in Hong Kong following pro-democracy protests in 2019, have drawn pointed critiques from Western governments.

But Xi on Sunday hailed the end of what he described as the “chaos” in Hong Kong, while condemning “external forces” interfering in self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

“The situation in Hong Kong has achieved a major transition from chaos to governance,” he said, going on to pledge a “major struggle against separatism and interference” in Taiwan.

He later added that “the Taiwan issue… must be resolved by Chinese people alone.”

“We will adhere to striving for the prospect of a peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and greatest efforts, but will never commit to abandoning the use of force, and reserve the option to take all necessary measures,” Xi said.

Anti-graft drive

Xi told delegates that his long-running crackdown on corruption had put an end to “serious latent dangers” within the Communist Party and military.

“The fight against corruption has won an overwhelming victory and has been comprehensively consolidated, eliminating serious latent dangers within the party, the state and the military,” he said, referencing a campaign critics say has been used to curb internal dissent.

Climate fight

The Chinese president also vowed Sunday that Beijing was committed to the global fight against climate change.

China will “actively participate in global governance on climate change,” Xi told delegates, while promising to “strengthen the clean and efficient use of coal.”

‘Cold War mentality’

Xi said that Beijing opposed a “Cold War mentality” in international diplomacy, but made no mention of frayed relations with the United States.

“China… resolutely opposes all forms of hegemony and power politics, opposes the Cold War mentality, opposes interfering in other countries’ domestic politics, opposes double standards,” he said, claiming Beijing “will never seek hegemony and will never engage in expansion.”

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