China’s leader Xi Jinping on Sunday laid out a decade-long vision pledging to boost China’s economic and military strength and self-reliance in science and technology, even as he warned of rising external threats in an increasingly turbulent world.
Opening the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) once-in-five-year national congress, which will conclude on October 22 and mark the start of Mr. Xi’s precedent-defying third five-year term, the Chinese President and CPC General Secretary said the party’s vision for 2035 – the half-way mark between its centenary last year and the People’s Republic of China’s centenary in 2049 – was to “significantly increase economic strength, scientific and technological capabilities, and comprehensive national strength”.
By that year, he said, China would “join the ranks of the world’s most innovative countries with great self-reliance and strength in science and technology”. Beijing would also “strengthen national security” and “achieve basic modernisation of the armed forces”, he said.
On the Taiwan question, Mr. Xi said China would “never promise to renounce the use of force”, which was “directed solely at interference by outside forces”, although Beijing would “continue to strive for peaceful reunification”.
“Resolving the Taiwan question and realising China’s complete reunification is, for the Party, a historic mission and an unshakeable commitment,” he said. “Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese, a matter that must be resolved by the Chinese…..The wheels of history are rolling on toward China’s reunification and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
Mr. Xi’s work report to the 2,296 delegates of the party congress was a combination of a strong defence of his decade at the helm, and a broad vision for what he has termed the country’s “rejuvenation”.
Mr. Xi said under his watch, China “had not yielded ground on matters of principle, and we have resolutely safeguarded China’s sovereignty, security and development interests”.
In the next five years, he said China would look to “enhance friendly ties, mutual interest and converging interests with its neighbours”. That message, however, was accompanied by a strong warning when it came to China’s sovereignty. Beijing has territorial and maritime disputes with several neighbours, including India.
“We will enhance the military’s strategic capabilities for defending China’s sovereignty, security and development interests,” he said, adding that the military “will intensify troop training and enhance combat preparedness across the board” as well as “modernise border, coastal and air defence” .
Mr. Xi painted a picture of a world in flux, where “backlash against globalisation is rising” and “unilateralism and protectionism are mounting” .The Chinese leader did not name any countries, but said broadly that Beijing “opposes the forming of blocs and exclusive groups that target particular countries”.
He also hit out at the “erection of fences and barriers, decoupling disruption of industrial supply chains, and unilateral sanctions”.
Those external concerns have, as Mr. Xi’s blueprint indicated, introduced greater urgency in China’s self-reliance push. The Chinese leader warned that “external attempts to suppress and contain China may escalate at any time”, and noted that in the past decade, R&D spending in China had close to tripled to 2.8 trillion Yuan ($389 billion), while the country had become “home to the largest cohort of R&D personnel in the world”.
He also acknowledged challenges in the self-reliance endeavour, noting, amid growing concerns in China on recent U.S. export controls that would restrict Chinese access to advanced semiconductors that it still requires, that a “capacity for scientific and technological innovation is not yet strong enough”.