Chinese President Xi Jinping firmly rejected pressure from abroad in a speech marking 100 years of the country’s Communist Party on Thursday.
The Chinese people will never allow foreign forces to “bully, oppress or subjugate” them, Xi said at a mass event at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
“Anyone who would attempt to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people,” Xi said.
In remarks appeared to be defending against foreign criticism, Xi added that the Chinese would not accept “sanctimonious preaching from those who feel they have the right to lecture us.”
In a speech lasting more than an hour, the party leader also called for the modernisation of the armed forces.
He opposed so-called “independence forces” in Taiwan, which is self-ruled but considered by China as part of its republic, and called for “peaceful reunification” with the island.
No one should underestimate China’s determination and ability to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said.
Xi also emphasized the absolute leadership role of the Communist Party at the centenary event.
“We must uphold the leadership of the party. China’s success hinges on the party,” Xi said.
Party chief Xi has steadily expanded state control over the country’s 1.4 billion people during his years as China’s leader.
For the anniversary celebration, he joined Chinese leaders on the balcony of the Tiananmen Gate above the large portrait of revoutionary leader Mao Zedong at the entrance to the Forbidden City.
The scene was reminiscent of the events on the same spot in 1949, when the “Great Helmsman” Mao proclaimed the founding of China as a Communist People’s Republic.
Xi wore a gray Mao suit with a stand-up collar.
The carefully orchestrated ceremonial event saw 70,000 invited participants gather in Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing.
The square was lined with 100 red national flags, with seated guests also waving their own red flags.
Among the participants were representatives of China’s military and minority groups.
“It really is a great day for the nation,” a commentator said on the state television broadcast of events.
A formation of helicopters formed the number 100 in the sky.
Hanging from them as they flew were flags with slogans, including “Long live the Communist Party.”
The centenary came with strict security measures.
For days before the celebration, police had been checking all cars and passengers entering the capital of 21 million people, leading to long traffic jams in some places.
Neighbourhood committees also mobilized thousands of volunteers to keep order on the streets. Troops guard underground stations.
China’s image has taken a severe beating in recent years as earlier policies of reform and opening-up fade away.
The one-party state and the world’s second-biggest economy is increasingly seen by the West not as a partner, but as a political, economic and military rival.
Unfair trade practices, doubts about its transparency in the COVID-19 pandemic, human rights abuses against minorities such as the Uighurs and Tibetans, sabre-rattling against Taiwan, military muscle-flexing in the South China Sea and the suppression of the democracy movement in Hong Kong – all have soured relations.
In Washington, President Joe Biden frequently describes the United States as being in a battle with China and other autocracies for influence in the 21st century.
Even though the Communist Party is firmly in the saddle, it is riding through risky terrain, said former political science professor Wu Qiang.
“There is a danger of falling off a mountainside at any time,” said the expert, who was dismissed from Beijing’s renowned Tsinghua University for his critical stances on the government.
“The biggest danger for China is the international isolation it has fallen into,” he said.
Under Xi’s one-man rule, all power once again belongs to the party and its leader – as it once did during the Mao Zedong era.
The party directs businesses, drives digitalisation efforts and uses big data for surveillance.
Critics warn that China is creating the world’s first “digital dictatorship” under Xi’s watch.
At the same time, the party has presided over an unprecedented economic rise, allowing individuals the feeling that their future prospects can improve, even if the reality is that the gap between rich and poor is only widening.
As self-confident as the party leadership may appear, it is acutely aware of the vulnerabilities of its system.
“China under Xi Jinping is in a state of alarm, which international observers often overlook,” says Mikko Huotari, head of the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin.
“Xi Jinping’s increasingly entrenched philosophy of rule is built around crisis prevention and risk management.”(dpa/NAN)