Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday hailed the Communist Party's rule as he opened a five-yearly Congress at which thousands of hand-picked delegates are set to endorse his bid to rule for a historic third term.
He said that China has achieved comprehensive control over Hong Kong, turning it from chaos to governance, while condemning what he said was interference in Taiwan.
"The situation in Hong Kong has achieved a major transition from chaos to governance," Xi told Communist Party delegates at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, while vowing a "major struggle against separatism and interference" in the self-ruled island of Taiwan, according to various media reports.
Xi also insisted China's Covid policies, which are still placing heavy curbs on people's lives, were for their safety.
On Taiwan, Xi said, "We have resolutely waged a major struggle against separatism and interference, demonstrating our strong determination and ability to safeguard state sovereignty and territorial integrity and oppose Taiwan independence."
The delegates, wearing blue face masks, responded with loud applause.
Xi said the party of 96 million members "has won the largest battle against poverty in human history."
In his decade in power, Xi, 69 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 generally do not expect any significant change in policy direction.
"We must build a high-level socialist market economic system ... unswervingly consolidate and develop the public ownership system, unswervingly encourage and support the development of the private economy, give full play to the decisive role of the market in the allocation of resources, and give better play to the role of the government," he said.
On Covid, Xi said China had won international praise.
In recent days, Beijing has repeatedly emphasised its commitment to Xi's zero-Covid strategy, dashing hopes among countless Chinese citizens as well as investors that Beijing might begin exiting anytime soon, a policy that has caused widespread frustration and economic damage.
Xi's power appears undiminished by the tumult of a year that has seen China's economy slow dramatically, dragged down by the Covid policy's frequent lockdowns, a crisis in the property sector and the impact of his 2021 crackdown on the once-freewheeling "platform economy", as well as global headwinds.
China's relations with the West have deteriorated sharply, worsened by Xi's support of Russia's Vladimir Putin.
The son of a Communist Party revolutionary, Xi has reinvigorated a party that had grown deeply corrupt and increasingly irrelevant, expanding its presence across all aspects of China, with Xi officially its "core".
Xi did away with presidential term limits in 2018, clearing the way for him to break with the precedent of recent decades and rule for a third five-year term, or longer.
The congress is expected to reconfirm Xi as party general secretary, China's most powerful post, as well as chairman of the Central Military Commission. Xi's presidency is up for renewal in March at the annual session of China's parliament.
In the run-up to the congress, the Chinese capital stepped up security and Covid curbs, while steel mills in nearby Hebei province were instructed to cut back on operations to improve air quality, an industry source said.
The day after the congress ends on Saturday, 22 October, Xi is expected to introduce his new Politburo Standing Committee, a seven-person leadership team. It will include the person who will replace Li Keqiang as premier when Li steps down from that post in March after serving the maximum two terms.
With reports from Reuters, PTI