Chinese leader Xi Jinping, poised to seize a third term in full control of his nation, signaled a pending move on Taiwan, did a victory lap over Bejing’s defeat of Hong Kong’s democracy aspirations and vowed to defeat COVID in a Sunday speech.
The 69-year-old Xi, who became the head of the Chinese Communist Party 10 years ago, struck a stridently nationalistic tone at the opening of the 20th Party Congress, which appears set to affirm him as its leader for life. He seemed to embrace that his muscular government is on a collision course with the West and intends to take over Taiwan.
“The wheels of history are rolling on towards China’s reunification and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” Xi said in the two-hour speech. “Complete reunification of our country must be realized.”
BREAKING: Xi Jinping opens CCP summit by announcing full control of Hong Kong has been achieved, that Taiwan is next pic.twitter.com/Y5PGVXg9Sj
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Xi referred to “rapid changes in the international situation,” which experts inferred meant China’s increasing alienation from the West and burgeoning alliance with Russia.
Xi claimed victory over both Hong Kong’s stalled independence movement and COVID, crediting his government with having “protected people’s lives and health.” Mentioning Taiwan as the third of three major challenges met by his regime was deemed a signal that Beijing may be closer than ever to make a move on Taiwan, a self-governing democracy Beijing claims as its own.
The speech was delivered inside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People to 2,300 of the CCP’s most powerful members. They cheered wildly when the president mentioned “reunification” with Taiwan. Although he pledged to try to achieve the goal peacefully, he issued a dark warning.
“We will never promise to renounce the use of force and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary,” Xi said.
Speculation that China could invade Taiwan has been building over the last year, with some international diplomacy experts surmising that Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin have a deal to back each other. China has not criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A takeover of Taiwan, the world’s top manufacturer of computer chips, would leave the West at the mercy of China technologically. The U.S. has traditionally held a state policy of ambiguity over what it would do if China were to invade Taiwan, although President Joe Biden has said the U.S. would intervene.
Xi said that over the next five years, China would focus on education, economic growth, and the continued buildup of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into a “world-class military.”
The weeklong congress is the CCP’s most important gathering in decades as it prepares to make Xi the nation’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, who ruled from 1943 until his death in 1976 at age 82. Most of the meetings throughout the week will take place out of the public eye, but Xi, who has a firm grip on the party, is expected to emerge with more power and potentially a new title.