President Xi Jinping on Thursday warned that China would no longer be bullied by foreign forces in a speech which elicited roaring applause from an invited gathering at Tiananmen Square which participated in the centenary celebrations of the founding of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).
President Xi, who heads the party and is seen as considering a third term for him starting next year, created a wave of patriotic and nationalistic sentiment in his 70-minute-long speech mainly aimed at domestic audience. He called for building a strong military to defend the country and warned that the Chinese people will never allow any foreign force to “bully, oppress, or subjugate them”.
More than 70,000 people consisting of party and military officials besides schoolchildren and university students attended the event, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. The event featured a military fly past and people waving Chinese flags and singing patriotic songs. Looking skyward, the crowd cheered a flyover by military planes, including helicopters forming the number “100” and a squadron of China’s J-20 stealth fighter jets. The final group of jets streaked blue, yellow and red contrails in the sky.
In his address telecast live by the official television channels, Xi declared that China had restored order in Hong Kong following anti-government protests in 2019 and reiterated the Communist Party’s determination to bring self-governing Taiwan under its control. He also said that integrating Taiwan with the Chinese mainland is a historic mission of the ruling party. Both policies have been widely criticized by Western democracies. In his strongly worded speech, Xi appeared to be hitting back at the western powers and others that have criticized China on trade and technology polices, military overtures and human rights record. He also said the nation must stick to its one-party rule, emphasizing the communists’ role in turning China into the world’s second largest economy.
As part of a continuing crackdown on anti-government protests in the city that long enjoyed freedoms not seen on the mainland, police in Hong Kong sealed off Victoria Park on Thursday. In the past, the park was the starting point for annual pro-democracy marches on July 1, the anniversary of the British return of Hong Kong to China in 1997. Today was also the first anniversary of imposition of stringent National Security Law in Hong Kong which brutally crushed protests in the city.
Xi also said the party would retain absolute control over the military, which now has the world’s second-largest annual budget after the U.S. “We will turn the people’s military into a world-class military, with even stronger capabilities and even more reliable means to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty, security and development interests,” he said. Xi said China does not oppress other countries and will not allow others to “bully us.”
Founded by Mao Zedong on July 1, 1921, the CPC formally completed 100 years of existence on Thursday. It also remained in power since the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was formed in 1949. Highlighting the importance of CPC to China, Xi said any attempt to divide it from the Chinese people is “bound to fail”. “The more than 95 million party members and more than 1.4 billion Chinese people will never allow such a scenario to come to pass,” Xi said. He said the firm leadership of the CPC must be upheld.