“China has not ruled out the use of force regarding Taiwan”, said President Xi Jinping, at the opening of the 20th Communist Party Congress on Sunday.
“We insist on striving for the prospect of peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and with the greatest efforts,” he said. “However, we are not committed to abandoning the use of force and we reserve the option to take all necessary measures,” he said.
He added that “the resolution of the Taiwan issue is a matter for the Chinese themselves to decide.”
“The historical wheels of national reunification and national rejuvenation are rolling forward, reunification definitely must be achieved and reunification definitely will be achieved,” he said.
In response to Xi’s remarks, Taipei declared that it would not cede its sovereignty or compromise on freedom and democracy. Taiwan’s presidential office emphasized that both sides share responsibilities for preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the region, and that engaging in combat is not an option.
Xi advocates boosting the military
At the Congress, President Xi urged for faster military and technological growth, in order to further the “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
Xi added that the People’s Liberation Army, the party’s military branch, must “safeguard China’s dignity and basic interests,” alluding to a list of naval disputes and other matters over which Beijing asserts its readiness for war.
China is at odds with the governments of Japan, India, and Southeast Asian nations over its territorial claims.
‘Won the largest battle against poverty’
In his opening address at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Xi praised the Communist party.
He said it was upholding social stability, preserving national security, defending lives, and controlling the situation in Hong Kong, which was roiled by anti-government demonstrations in 2019.
Xi also said that the party “has won the largest battle against poverty in human history” with Beijing’s domestic policies prioritizing the advancement of shared prosperity. The government aims to speed up the creation of a housing system and enhance the system of wealth distribution, according to the politician.
After months of criticism over China’s strict zero-COVID policy and its economic impact, Xi commended the policy saying it helped protect “the people’s life safety and physical health to the greatest extent.”
He added that the country “achieved major positive results in the overall prevention and control of the epidemic” but refrained from indicating if the stringent policy was coming to an end anytime soon.
The president also addressed China’s declining birth rate, pledging policies to address the pressing issue. “We will establish a policy system to boost birth rates and pursue a proactive national strategy in response to population aging,” he said.
Experts say the world’s second-largest economy may suffer as a result of an impending population decline.
The 69-year-old leader also pointed to China’s progress in tackling ecological problems. He promised the continuation of an “energy revolution” and promotion of the clean use of coal, while addressing soil, air and water pollution.
Historic third term for the president
Xi is set to be reconfirmed as the party general secretary, China’s most powerful position, and the head of the Central Military Commission by the deputies.
It would be an unprecedented third term for a Chinese communist leader. Xi himself removed presidential term limits in 2018.
Xi is expected to unveil his new seven-person leadership group, the Politburo Standing Committee, at the end of the congress.
In addition, he will choose Li Keqiang’s successor as premier, the head of government in the one-party state.
Heavy police presence, twice-a-decade event
Almost 2,300 delegates are present for the one-week event.
Early on Sunday, there was a significant police presence in the Beijing area ahead of the twice-a-decade party congress.
Journalists and other participants were transported by a fleet of buses to a mostly empty area surrounded by flapping red flags.