China’s episode opens the Party Congress with a speech on zero-Covid

Chinese leader Xi Jinping vowed on Sunday to direct China to overcome serious challenges towards national rejuvenation, advancing the nationalist vision that has put the country on the path to success. touch with the West.

Speaking at the opening of the 20th Party Congress, where he was poised to secure a breakthrough third term in power, Mr. Xi struck a confident tone, emphasizing growing power and growing influence. China’s rise during his first decade in power.

But he also repeatedly emphasized the risks and challenges facing the country.

Describing the past five years as “very unusual and extraordinary”, Mr. Xi said the ruling Communist Party had led China through the “difficult and complicated international situation” and “risks and challenges”. big one after another”.

The first challenges Mr. Xi listed were the Covid-19 pandemic, Hong Kong and Taiwan – all challenges that he said China did not win.

The Chinese government, Mr. Xi said, has “protected people’s lives and health” from Covid, turned Hong Kong from “chaos to governance” and waged “major struggles” against the “force of independence” in the island of Taiwan, an autonomous region. democracy Beijing claims as its own territory though has never controlled it.

Wen-Ti Sung, a political scientist with the Australian National University’s Taiwan Studies Program, said Mr Xi’s decision to mark the Taiwan issue at the outset in his speech was a major event. distinct from previous speeches and conveyed a “new urgency about making progress on the Taiwan issue.”

Mr. Xi won the biggest and longest round of applause from nearly 2,300 handpicked delegates inside the Great Hall of the People when he talked about Taiwan again later in his speech.

He said China would “strive for peaceful reunification” – but then issued a grim warning, saying “we will never promise to renounce the use of force and we reserve option to take all necessary measures.”

“The wheels of history are turning towards the unification of China and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The complete reunification of our country must be done,” Xi said to applause. resounding hand.

Mr. Xi also highlighted “rapid changes in the international situation” – a thin allusion to the fraught relationship between China and the West, which has been further strained by the tacit support of North Korea. Prayer for Moscow after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He said China has “taken a clear stance against hegemonism and power politics” and “never wavered” in opposing unilateralism and “bullying” – in one word. clearly what Beijing sees as a must-have US-led world order. dismantled.

Giving a broad direction for the next five years, Mr. Xi said China would focus on “high-quality education” and innovation for “growth innovation” in the country’s battered economy. In comments made just months after his damaging crackdown on the country’s private sector and major tech companies, he said, China would “accelerate efforts to achieve greater autonomy in science and technology”.

Xi also vowed to accelerate efforts to build the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into a “world-class military”, pledging to improve the PLA’s ability to protect national sovereignty and build strategic deterrence. He also urged the PLA to increase training and improve its “ability to win”.

Xi’s speech was associated with the Chinese term “security” – which has been mentioned about 50 times. He called national security “the foundation of China’s national rejuvenation”, and called for increased security in military, economic and “all aspects”, both at home and abroad.

Another focus point is Marxism and ideology. “I don’t think there will be any loosening of the ideological climate in the next five years,” said Victor Shih, an expert on elite Chinese politics at the University of California.

Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, said the directions given in Xi’s opening speech were a continuation of his previous policies. By emphasizing challenges and difficulties, he said, it justifies “the need for a strong party and its great leader.”

Cement Capacity

The week-long congress opened on Sunday morning amid heightened security, escalating Zero-Covid restrictions and a frenzy of propaganda and censorship.

The Communist Party’s most consequential congress in decades, set to cement Xi’s position as China’s most powerful leader since the late Chairman Mao Zedong, ruler until his death at the age of 82. It will also have a profound impact on the world, as Mr. Xi redoubles his assertive foreign policy to promote China’s international influence and rewrite US-led global order.

Meetings will mostly be held behind closed doors throughout the week. When the delegates reconvene at the end of the congress next Saturday, they will conduct a ceremonial vote to rubber-stamp Xi’s work report and approve the changes made to the constitution. party law that could bestow Mr. Xi with new titles to further strengthen his power.

Delegates will also choose the party’s new Central Committee, which will hold its first meeting the next day to appoint the party’s top leadership – the Politburo and the Standing Committee, according to decisions already made. presented by party leaders before the congress.

The congress will be a moment of major political victory for Xi, but it also comes during a time of potential crisis.. Mr. Xi’s insistence on a zero-tolerance policy has fueled public frustration and crippled economic growth. Meanwhile, diplomatically, his “unlimited” friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin has further strained Beijing’s relations with the West after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.


On the eve of the congress, officials across China have drastically increased restrictions to contain even small Covid outbreaks, imposing comprehensive lockdowns and increasingly frequent mass Covid tests. frequently in some cases. However, infections caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant continued to flare up. On Saturday, China reported nearly 1,200 infections, including 14 in Beijing.

Public anger over zero-Covid first surfaced on Thursday during a particularly rare protest against Xi in Beijing. Online photos show two banners unfurled on a busy overpass denouncing Xi and his policies, before being taken down by police.

“Say no to Covid testing, yes to food. No to restrictions, yes to freedom. No to lies, yes to dignity. No to cultural revolution, yes to reform. No to leaders. great, yes to vote. Don’t be a slave, be a citizen,” read one banner.

“Let’s strike, get rid of the dictator and traitor to the nation Xi Jinping,” reads another.

The Chinese public previously paid little attention to party congresses – they had no say in reforming the country’s leadership, or making major policies. But this year, many had hoped the congress would be a turning point for China to relax its Covid policy.

However, a recent series of articles in the party mouthpiece suggest that it may be wishful thinking. People’s Daily praised zero-Covid as the “best choice” for the country, stressing that it was “sustainable and must be adhered to.”

On Sunday, Mr. Xi defended his controversial and economically damaging No Covid policy.

“In response to the sudden outbreak of Covid-19, we prioritize people and their lives, and persistently pursue a dynamic zero-Covid policy in waging war,” he said. comprehensive people against the virus,” he said.

Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said Mr Xi’s words showed “it is impossible for China to change its zero-Covid strategy in the near future.”


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