China's president Xi calls for 'great renaissance'

BEIJING (AFP) - China's newly-installed president Xi Jinping said Sunday he would fight for a "great renaissance of the Chinese nation", in his first speech as head of state of the world's most populous country.

Xi called for "arduous efforts for the continued realisation of the great renaissance of the Chinese nation and the Chinese dream", in a speech to delegates at the National People's Congress parliament meeting in Beijing.

Calls for such a revival in the world's second-largest economy have been a motif of Xi's speeches since he took the top post in China's ruling communist party in November, but he has not given a detailed account of the phrase's meaning.

He has close ties to China's expanding military and called for the armed forces to strengthen their ability to "win battles", as it is embroiled in a bitter territorial row with Japan over islands in the East China Sea and disputes with neighbouring nations over claims to the South China Sea.

The speech also touched on corruption, which he has called a threat to the Communist Party's grip on power, and Xi urged delegates to "oppose hedonism, and flamboyant lifestyles, and firmly fight against negative and corrupt phenomena".

Xi stressed continuity with previous Chinese leaders, thanking outgoing president Hu Jintao and celebrating the past achievements of the ruling party.

His speech formally brought the almost two-week long NPC meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the People to a close.

It was to be followed by China's new premier, Li Keqiang, stepping into spotlight for a rare news conference.

Li took control of the day to day running of the government on Friday, a day after Xi was handed the title of president, completing China's once-in-a-decade transition of its two top leaders.

The news conference will be a rare chance for foreign media to scrutinise Li, as high-ranking Chinese politicians normally maintain strict secrecy and rarely give interviews to non-official media.

The event will be closely watched for any indications of which economic reforms Li may seek to promote, as well as for more declarations of action on official corruption.

China's leaders have come under fire in the last year after reports, suppressed within the country, that the families of top politicians - including Xi - have amassed huge wealth, but have not vowed to make their assets public.

Li's answers at the conference were unlikely to depart from the ruling party's consensus view that China needs economic reform to maintain growth, while avoiding political reforms which could threaten its grip on power.

A news conference by the premier, which can last up to three hours, has been an annual part of China's political calendar for more than two decades.

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