By Ben Westcott and Steven Jiang, CNN
In an event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party Thursday, President Xi Jinping claimed that only the party could ensure China’s continued assent and stability, and any attempt to divide the party from the country would fail.
“Without the Communist Party, there will be no new China,” Xi said.
Speaking in front of a reported crowd of 70,000 at a highly-choreographed ceremony in Tiananmen Square, Xi delivered a strongly nationalist speech in which he vowed that China would no longer be “bullied, oppressed or subjugated” by foreign countries, to thundering applause and cheers.
“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.
Xi’s speech capped a morning of celebrations in the capital to mark the party’s centenary, including patriotic songs, speeches from officials and flyovers by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.
The Chinese Communist Party was founded in secret in a small brick house in Shanghai’s former French Concession by around a dozen delegates, in July 1921. Its subsequent rise and continued monopoly on power has confounded its critics, with the party proving itself adept at changing at crucial moments to ensure the survival of its one-party rule. Under its founder and former Chairman, Mao Zedong, millions starved to death during protracted periods of famine and political crisis. Today, China is the world’s second-largest economy, with some estimates suggesting it is poised to overtake the United States.
However, Thursday’s celebrations follow a turbulent two years for the unelected party, marked by its perceived mishandling of the initial Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019, growing international outrage over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and the rise and subsequent suppression of large scale pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Numerous challenges also lie ahead, from a slowing economy, an aging population and a shrinking workforce, to an increasingly united democratic West that is determined to counter China’s rise.
Speaking on Thursday, Xi announced the party had accomplished its centenary goal of creating a “moderately prosperous society” in China. “We are now marching in confident strides toward the second centenary goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects,” Xi said.
In a continuation of his hardline foreign policy, Xi said while China would welcome “helpful suggestions” from other governments, it would not accept “sanctimonious preaching.“
On the subject of Taiwan, the self-governed democratic island that the Chinese government has long maintained is part of its territory, Xi said its “reunification” with the mainland was part of the “historic mission” of the Communist Party.
And at a time when Hong Kong’s civil liberties are increasingly under threat from new national security legislation passed by Beijing, Xi said Thursday that “social stability” must be maintained in the major financial hub, as well as China’s “sovereignty (and) security.”
“No one should underestimate the great resolve, the strong will, and the extraordinary ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
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