Xi Jinping talks up security, reiterates Covid stance
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for accelerating the building of a world-class military while touting the fight against Covid-19 as he kicked off a Communist Party Congress by focussing on security and reiterating policy priorities.
Xi, 69, is widely expected to win a third leadership term at the conclusion of the weeklong congress that began on Sunday morning, cementing his place as China’s most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong.
Roughly 2,300 delegates from around the country gathered in the vast Great Hall of the People on the west side of Tiananmen Square.
Xi described the five years since the last party congress as “extremely uncommon and abnormal”, during a speech that lasted less than two hours — far shorter than his nearly three-and-a-half-hour address at the 2017 congress, because he did not read out the entire work report. The 2017 and 2022 work reports are roughly the same length.
“We must strengthen our sense of hardship, adhere to the bottom-line thinking, be prepared for danger in times of peace, prepare for a rainy day, and be ready to withstand major tests of high winds and high waves,” he said.
Xi called for strengthening the ability to maintain national security, ensuring food and energy supplies, securing supply chains, improving the ability to deal with disasters and protecting personal information.
The biggest applause came when Xi restated opposition to Taiwan independence.
In the full work report, Xi used the terms “security” or “safety” 89 times, up from 55 times in 2017, according to a Reuters count, while his use of the word “reform” declined to 48 from 68 mentions five years ago.
In his decade in power, Xi has set China on an increasingly authoritarian path that has prioritised security, state control of the economy in the name of “common prosperity”, a more assertive diplomacy, a stronger military and intensifying pressure to seize democratically governed Taiwan. Analysts do not expect significant change in policy direction in a third Xi term.
Alfred Wu, associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said that as China’s economy has slowed, Xi is attempting to shift the basis of legitimacy from economic growth to security. “His narrative is — China faces many dangers, the country is in a war-like state, figuratively, and he is the saviour. With this narrative, he can get people to unite around him,” Wu said.