Xi Urges Stronger Role in Challenges 10/18 06:10
BEIJING (AP) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday urged a
reinvigorated Communist Party to take a stronger role in society and economic
development to better address the nation's "grim" challenges as he opened a
twice-a-decade national congress.
Speaking in the massive Great Hall of the People near Tiananmen Square, Xi
laid out his vision of a ruling party that serves as the vanguard for
everything from defending national security to providing moral guidance to
He struck a nationalistic line throughout his speech, calling for the party
not only to safeguard China's sovereignty but also to revitalize Chinese
culture, oppose "erroneous" ideology and promote religion that is "Chinese in
"The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is no walk in the park or mere
drum-beating and gong-clanging. The whole party must be prepared to make ever
more difficult and harder efforts," Xi told hundreds of delegates, mostly men
in dark suits who applauded regularly as they read copies of his prepared
remarks. "To achieve great dreams there must be a great struggle."
Hailing the start of a "new era," Xi outlined a vision in which the party
would lead China on the road to becoming a "great modern socialist country" by
Xi wields undisputed power and is expected to get a second five-year term as
party leader at the gathering. Analysts say he has consolidated his power by
sidelining his competitors in other intra-party cliques, including those
surrounding his immediate predecessor Hu Jintao and former leader Jiang Zemin.
Observers will be watching for signs of whether Xi, 64, may be looking to
appoint a successor. While the nation's presidency is limited to two five-year
terms, the tenure of the party's leader is bound only by tradition.
Xi has already distinguished himself from previous leaders, and is now
"leading China into territory in which China is very close to achieving modest
prosperity," said Dali Yang, an expert on Chinese politics at the University of
According to Xi's vision, "China would not only be a modern, socialist
country but one that stands tall among the nations," Yang said. "This message
he delivered with vigor."
The Communist Party meetings will largely be behind closed doors and are
accompanied by extraordinary security measures, such as restrictions on knife
sales and greater monitoring of dissidents. But the congress will see powerful
players emerge in new roles and is a chance for Xi to publicly lay out his
political and economic vision over the next five years.
In emphasizing the party's supremacy over all aspects of Chinese society, Xi
is "making a big pitch for the importance of party leadership and what he
claims only the party can achieve," said Willy Lam, a China expert at the
Chinese University of Hong Kong. "It's an appeal to ordinary Chinese to abide
by the party's instructions, in particular that of the top leadership --- that
Xi, in his three-and-a-half-hour address, said China's "prospects are bright
but the challenges are grim," a rare acknowledgement of severe economic issues.
He added that the party would have to take big risks and overcome "major
Other Chinese leaders have regularly warned since the 2008 financial crisis
that China's economic growth faces "downward pressure" due to weak global
demand that threatens export industries in the world's second-largest economy.
But Xi's comments were unusual in a keynote speech meant to highlight the
party's confidence and long-range vision.
Among the grave issues Xi said were insufficiently addressed are a widening
income gap and problems in employment, education, medical care and other areas.
He pledged to make high school universally available and promised to extend
land-use contracts for farmers for another 30 years after expiration.
Xi hailed China's island-building efforts in the disputed South China Sea as
well as his signature foreign-policy initiative, the "One Belt, One Road"
infrastructure investment project aimed at improving connections between China,
Europe and Africa.
He also praised the party's tightened grip over domestic security, saying
that social stability had been maintained and national security strengthened.
To achieve a "moderately well-off society" by 2021 --- the 100th anniversary
of the party's founding --- and even greater national power and prosperity by
2049 --- the centenary of the founding of the Communist state --- China needs
continued economic growth and the lifting of millions out of poverty. The
country is also rapidly expanding its military and political power, including
its growing ability to dominate the Asia-Pacific region.
Xi affirmed economic plans that call for developing state-owned companies
that dominate industries including finance, energy and telecoms while also
giving the market the "decisive role" in allocating resources.
The party declared for the first time in 2013 that it would give market
forces the "decisive role," a step business groups welcomed as a commitment to
freer markets. But the same declaration also said the party would play a bigger
role in managing state industry, which could blunt the impact of competitive
Xi emphasized Beijing "must develop the public sector," a goal that reform
advocates complain wastes public money and further slows economic growth.
Xi also confirmed official pledges to make the banking industry more
market-oriented and to shrink bloated state-owned steel and coal industries.
Excess industrial capacity has strained trade relations with Washington and
Europe, which complain that a flood of low-cost Chinese exports is depressing
global prices for steel, aluminum and other goods and threatening jobs abroad.
Xi pledged that the party would have "zero tolerance" for corruption and
exhorted members to resist "pleasure seeking, inaction, sloth and problem
The most tangible results of the congress will likely be personnel
China is run by the party's Politburo Standing Committee, currently a
seven-member body led by Xi, with Premier Li Keqiang his No. 2. While Xi and Li
are expected to stay, the fates of others are determined by loose precedents
governing retirement age. Four are expected to depart, while the status of
party discipline boss and close Xi ally Wang Qishan appears uncertain.
In a secret process, the congress delegates will select a roughly 200-member
central committee, along with more than 150 alternates, from a pool of around
400 candidates. The committee will then pick a 25-member politburo and the
elite Politburo Standing Committee, led by the general secretary. The makeup of
the top body will only be known at the close of the meeting when its members
reveal themselves on stage in front of journalists, according to past practice.