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A hint to US, state of China’s economy: 5 things to know about Xi Jinping’s 3.5-hour speech

Opening a critical Communist Party congress, Xi Jinping pledged to build a “modern socialist country” for a “new era” that will be proudly Chinese and steadfastly ruled by the party but open to the world.

world Updated: Oct 18, 2017 16:37 IST
China‬,‪Xi Jinping‬,‪19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China
China's President Xi Jinping gives a speech at the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party's five-yearly Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.(AFP Photo)

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday laid out a confident vision for a more prosperous nation and its role in the world, stressing the importance of wiping out corruption and curbing industrial overcapacity, income inequality and pollution.

Opening a critical Communist Party congress, Xi pledged to build a “modern socialist country” for a “new era” that will be proudly Chinese and steadfastly ruled by the party but open to the world.

Although his wide-ranging address made clear there were no plans for political reform, Xi said China’s development had entered a “new era”, using the phrase 36 times in a speech that ran nearly 3-1/2 hours.

Here are five things to know about Xi’s speech:

1) A message to the US

In what was probably an indirect reference to US President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy, Xi promised that China would be fully engaged with the world, and reiterated pledges to tackle climate change. Trump this year opted to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate pact.

“No country can alone address the many challenges facing mankind; no country can afford to retreat into self-isolation,” Xi told the delegates, among them Buddhist monks, Olympic medallists, farmers and at least one astronaut.

2) China’s economy

Speaking in front of a massive hammer and sickle, Xi touted his nationalistic “China dream” slogan, vowed to open the economy, promised to win the fight against poverty, and pointedly warned he would continue his “zero tolerance” campaign against corruption.

“Xi worked to calm fear of rising home prices that have hit ordinary Chinese particularly hard, and real estate is a preferred investment in a country where the financial system is viewed with distrust,” The Guardian said about the Chinese leader’s speech.

Xi, in his three-and-a-half-hour address, said China’s “prospects are bright but the challenges are grim,” a rare acknowledgement of severe economic issues. He added that the party would have to take big risks and overcome “major resistance.”

3) ‘No significant political reforms’

Xi set bold long-term goals for China’s development, envisioning it as a “basically” modernised socialist country by 2035, and a modern socialist “strong power” with leading influence on the world stage by 2050.

But he signalled there would be no significant political reforms, calling China’s system the broadest, most genuine, and most effective way to safeguard the interests of the people.

4) Promise of world-class army

Xi pledged to transform the country’s armed forces into a world-class military.

Xi, the chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, called for unflinching loyalty from the army towards the party. China has the world’s largest standing army of 2.3 million. Unlike other countries’ armed forces, the army is political.

Xi has carried massive military reforms and decided to bring the number of troops to below one million. “We must enhance the political loyalty of the armed forces,” Xi said, adding that focus must be on combat.

5) Any heir apparent?

The conclave, which will mostly meet behind closed doors and end next Tuesday, will select new top party members, including for the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s all-powerful ruling body.

Xi and Premier Li Keqiang are expected to remain on the committee while the five other current members are supposed to step down under an informal retirement age set at 68.

But analysts say Xi’s 69-year-old right-hand man and anti-graft chief, Wang Qishan, could stay on, creating a precedent for Xi himself to remain in charge beyond retirement age in 2022.

First Published: Oct 18, 2017 16:36 IST