President Xi Jinping delivered a blistering nationalist speech Tuesday, warning against any attempts to split China and touting the country’s readiness to fight "the bloody battle" to regain its rightful place in the world.
Mr Xi, who is set to rule China for life having scrapped presidential term limits, lauded his vision of the “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.
He sent strong warnings to Taiwan and Hong Kong, self-governed regions that the Communist Party of China (CPC) seeks to unify politically with the mainland, saying that any efforts made towards their independence would be “doomed”.
In front of around 3,000 CPC delegates in the Great Hall next to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Mr Xi declared: "The Chinese people have been indomitable and persistent, we have the spirit of fighting the bloody battle against our enemies to the bitter end.”
He said that China, which has been building military facilities in disputed territory in the South China Sea and has established military bases on recognised foreign soil since Mr Xi came to power in 2012, would not seek expansion. "Only those who are accustomed to threatening others will see everyone as a threat," he said.
As state media TV cameras honed in on delegates from Taiwan the President added: “All acts and tricks to separate the country are doomed to fail and will be condemned by the people and punished by history.”
Achieving “total unity”, he said, was the “collective hope of all Chinese people.”
The US does not recognise Taiwan as a separate country, in line with Beijing’s wishes. However, last week US President Donald Trump riled the Chinese government by signing an agreement with Taiwan allowing US ships to move into Taiwanese waters.
China is overseeing a massive global trade infrastructure initiative to revive the ancient Silk Road, drawing interest from nations participating in the investment but also criticism from others fearing that it mainly serves Beijing’s interests.
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The Chinese leader’s plan to build a "world-class" military by mid-century has also raised concerns about how it plans to use its increasingly modern forces amid regional frictions over China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The highly-choreographed NPC, which takes place annually, saw the rubber stamping of Mr Xi’s second presidential term as well as the abolition of his two-term limit.
Many Chinese online commentators suggested that by pushing through the latter motion he was turning himself into an emperor-like figure, while others compared him to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Critical comments were, however, largely deleted by the government’s army of censors.
High-ranking government personnel changes were confirmed too. Wang Qishan, formerly in charge of the government’s corruption investigations department, was elevated to the position of Mr Xi’s vice president.
Yi Gang was named governor of China’s central bank: a promotion from his position of vice governor.