Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday said China would “play an active part” in global governance while calling for the Chinese military to build a “Great Wall of steel”, as he officially began his third five year-term.
Speaking in Beijing at the conclusion of the annual National People’s Congress (NPC) legislative session, which on Friday formally endorsed his unprecedented third term, Mr. Xi said “China’s development benefits the world and China cannot develop in isolation from the rest of the world”.
“China will play an active part in the reform and development of the global governance system, contribute its share to building an open world economy, advance the implementation of the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative, add more stability and positive energy to the peaceful development of the world, and foster a favourable international environment for China’s development,” he said, referring to two of his key foreign policy initiatives and speaking days after a landmark agreement signed in Beijing between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
On the domestic front, he said “security is the bedrock of development, while stability is a prerequisite for prosperity”, adding that Beijing would “strengthen China’s capacity for safeguarding national security” and “safeguard China’s new development pattern with a new security architecture”. He called for “efforts to advance the modernisation of national defence and armed forces on all fronts, and build the people’s armed forces into a ‘Great Wall of steel’ that is capable of effectively safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests.” Mr. Xi said Beijing would also work “to achieve greater self-reliance and strength in science and technology”, a key focus of the next term.
The NPC session on Saturday confirmed a close long-term ally of Mr. Xi, Li Qiang, as the next Premier. Mr. Li, who will be charged with managing the Chinese economy, in comments to reporters on Monday, in his first press conference, offered an olive branch to the embattled private sector, which has been the target of regulatory interventions in Mr. Xi’s last term.
Acknowledging that the GDP target for the year of “around 5%” would “not be an easy task”, he said the broad policy focus would be on economic stability, spurring domestic demand, defusing financial risks such as rising local government debt, and boosting innovation in science and technology and industry.
Pointing to his past experience in his native Zhejiang province – a hub for entrepreneurship in China – he said he had “worked in localities with strong private enterprises.”
“Last year, there were some inappropriate discussions about private entrepreneurs, which made them feel frustrated,” he said. “ Private entrepreneurs or enterprises will enjoy a better environment and broader space for development. Standing at a new starting point, this government will continue to foster a market-based and law-based business environment in keeping with international standards, treat companies under all types of ownership as equals protect the property rights of enterprises and the rise and interests of entrepreneurs in accordance with law…. Government officials at all levels must sincerely care for and support the development of private enterprises, make friends with private entrepreneurs, build clean and cordial relations with them, and take the lead in promoting a culture of respect for pioneers and entrepreneurs.”