China's Xi: 'The Next Five Years Will Be Crucial'

Chinese leader opens session in which he is expected to award himself another term
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 16, 2022 6:10 AM CDT
China's Xi: 'The Next Five Years Will Be Crucial'
Delegates applaud as Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during the opening ceremony of the 20th National Congress of China's ruling Communist Party held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022.   (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Sunday called for faster military development and announced no change in policies that have strained relations with Washington and tightened the ruling Communist Party's control over society and the economy. China’s most influential figure in decades spoke as the party opened a congress that was closely watched by companies, governments, and the public for signs of official direction, per the AP. It comes amid a painful slump in the world's second-largest economy and tension with Washington and Asian neighbors over trade, technology, and security.

“The next five years will be crucial,” Xi said in a televised speech of one hour and 45 minutes to some 2,000 delegates in the cavernous Great Hall of the People. He repeatedly invoked his slogan of the “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," which includes reviving the party's role as economic and social leader in a throwback to what Xi regards as a golden age after it took power in 1949. The congress will install leaders for the next five years. Xi, 69, is expected to break with tradition and award himself a third five-year term as general secretary and promote allies who share his enthusiasm for party dominance. He did not, however, specify his plans in Sunday's speech.

The party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, needs to “safeguard China’s dignity and core interests,” Xi said, referring to a list of territorial claims and other issues over which Beijing says it is ready to go to war. “We will work faster to modernize military theory, personnel, and weapons,” Xi said in the speech, which was punctuated by brief bursts of applause. “We will enhance the military’s strategic capabilities.” Xi also cited his government's severe “zero-COVID” strategy, which has shut down major cities and disrupted travel and business, as a success. He gave no indication of a possible change despite public frustration with its rising cost.

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During his decade in power, Xi's government has pursued an increasingly assertive foreign policy while tightening control at home on information and dissent. Beijing is feuding with Japan, India, and Southeast Asian governments over conflicting claims to the South China and East China seas and a section of the Himalayas. The United States, Japan, Australia, and India formed a strategic group dubbed the Quad in response.

(Read more Xi Jinping stories.)

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