Xi Jinping focused on security issues on Sunday, particularly vis-à-vis Taiwan, and defended his handling of the Covid-19 epidemic in his opening speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China ( PCC), at the end of which he should be reappointed for a third term of five years as Secretary General.
Faced with public support for his cause, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Sunday, October 16, for “unity” around his leadership and praised the rise of China as a world power, at the opening of the XXe congress of the Communist Party which should entrust him with a third historic mandate.
“Unity is strength, and victory requires unity”, launched the 69-year-old leader who has led a formidable anti-corruption campaign in recent years, intended according to his critics to clean up his rivals.
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To loud applause from some 2,300 party delegates gathered at the People’s Palace in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Xi Jinping also stressed that “China’s international influence, appeal and ability to shape the world have increased significantly.” .
In power since 2012, the president should, barring a dramatic change, obtain a third five-year term at the head of the party, and therefore of the country.
This new coronation, expected on October 23, the day after the end of the congress, will make him the most powerful Chinese leader since the founder of the regime, Mao Zedong (1949-1976).
For more than an hour and a half, Xi Jinping notably defended his draconian policy of combating Covid-19 and strengthening Chinese military power.
“Zero Covid” strategy
While one of the main questions revolved around whether or not to maintain the strict “zero Covid” strategy inseparable from the Chinese president, Xi Jinping affirmed that China had, thanks to this policy, privileged human lives above all.
China has “highly safeguarded people’s safety and health and achieved significant results by coordinating epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development,” he said.
This “zero Covid” policy has reinforced social control over citizens, all of whose movements are now computerized, in this country already reviewed on the international scene for human rights violations.
And the quasi-closure of the country and the repeated confinements have put a stop to economic growth, also arousing popular discontent.
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In his speech, Xi Jinping also defended his anti-corruption campaign, which he said had “won a landslide victory”, eliminating the “serious latent dangers within the party, the state and the military”.
According to official figures, at least 1.5 million people have been punished since 2012 during this campaign aimed at bringing down the “tigers” (senior leaders) and the “flies” (lower officials) hungry for bribes. The offensive accelerated as the congress approached.
The Chinese president also slammed “external forces” meddling from Taiwan, an island the Chinese regime considers part of its territory.
China will seek to reunify Taiwan peacefully but will “never renounce the use of force” if necessary, reserving “the possibility of taking all necessary measures”, he threatened.
He also revealed that Hong Kong had gone “from chaos to governance” after Beijing’s harsh takeover of the territory, where huge pro-democracy protests took place in 2019.
Speech of “continuity”
In his speech, paid for the most part on domestic political subjects, Xi Jinping assured that his country, one of the biggest polluters on the planet, would “participate compensated” in the fight against global warming.
While saying that China is “resolutely opposed to any form of hegemony” and “opposes the Cold War mentality”, Xi Jinping refrained from supporting the tensions with the United States, as well as the war in Ukraine.
“Xi wants to pursue his own narrative,” notes Alfred Wu Muluan, associate in public policy at the National University of Singapore, justified that the leader “wants a fourth and a fifth term”, so well beyond 2027.
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And since “he regards national security as the country’s number one priority, there will be no compromise on this subject, whether it concerns the South China Sea, Taiwan and Hong Kong”. “Internationally, he will remain very tough,” said Alfred Wu Muluan.
It is a discourse of “continuity”, also observes Alfred L. Chan, biographer of Xi and professor emeritus of political science at Huron University in Canada. But “it is a very turbulent time, with the Covid crisis, the economic slowdown, the tense international situation, especially with the United States”.
The 2,300 or so delegates from the CPC, who have come from all the provinces and some of them dressed in their traditional outfits, will appoint the new Central Committee by next Saturday, a kind of party parliament with some 200 members, including the political bureau and its 25 heads is the decision-making body.
In reality, they only validate the decisions taken upstream by the various factions of the Party: this is moreover how Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, chosen as a man of compromise between the factions before imposing his control over the years.
A crucial point will be the composition of the future Permanent Committee, this group of seven or nine personalities at the highest peak of power. But Xi Jinping should, according to analysts, give no indication as to a possible successor.