19th Party Congress: China aims to become modern nation that stands tall in the world

Delegates attend the opening ceremony of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING - Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday (Oct 18) mapped out two phases for reaching the goal of being a modern socialist country that can stand tall among nations of the world by the middle of this century.

In setting this ambitious goal, which is also framed as the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, Mr Xi has shown awareness of the challenges and risks ahead.

"Achieving national rejuvenation will be no walk in the park; it will take more than drum beating and gong clanging to get there. Everyone of us in the Party must be prepared to work even harder toward this goal," he said.

"Realising our great dream demands a great struggle," he said. It would involve responding to major challenges, withstanding major risks, overcoming major obstacles and addressing major conflicts.

Mr Xi, who is also general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), was giving the political report of the Party that looks at the Party's work over the past five years and maps out the direction for the next five.

He was speaking at the opening of the CCP's five-yearly national congress before an audience of more than 2,300 party delegates, retired leaders and non-party guests.

Mr Xi's predecessors, Mr Jiang Zemin and Mr Hu Jintao, were also invited and were seated on stage to the left and right, respectively, of Mr Xi.

The president's two-stage goal will see the China becoming a top innovative nation by 2035 and a nation with global influence by 2050.

Professor Yang Dali of Chicago University noted that the goal was very ambitious in terms of laying out what it means to be a modern country. "In the past, this was weakly described," he said.

Now, Mr Xi has emphasised that by 2050, China would be a modern socialist country that would stand tall among other nations, he added.

In essence, it is a goal in which "China will continue to grow and China will be so developed in all aspects that it will be truly a superpower", he said.

In mapping out this goal, Mr Xi also pointed to the need to address imbalances in social and economic development by doing more in areas such as poverty alleviation, invest more in education, health care and welfare benefits, and boost economic growth through measures such as structural reform and innovation.

Mr Xi spoke for three and a half hours, displaying stamina in doing so.

His speech was broad ranging, including expounding on a new era for socialism with Chinese characteristics, China's special brand of socialism that incorporates aspects of the market economy with state capitalism.

He also touched on keeping the party and government clean through an anti-corruption campaign and instilling party discipline.

Beyond socio-economic and environmental issues, which are close to the people's hearts, he also spoke about China's place in the world - it is the CCP's abiding mission to make new and greater contributions to mankind - and safeguarding China's territorial integrity.

"If one leaves aside the politics, there are a lot of things in it that a lot of people would like," said Prof Yang.

Some Chinese citizens who heard the speech would agree with this.

"What has left a deep impression on me are issues that affect me, such as housing prices and having a house over our heads," said Ms Guan Li, 34, a researcher.

For Mr Lu Hengjiu, 37, a civil servant, the "brilliant content, clear thinking and the raising of subjects like new era, new thinking, new goals are rather inspiring".

But what resonated with him was Mr Xi's ending of his report with the observation that the country's future is in its young people.

"A nation will prosper only when its young people thrive, a country will be full of hope and have a great tomorrow only when its younger generations have ideals, ability and a strong sense of responsibility," said Mr Xi.

Over the next several days, the delegates to the 19th Party Congress will deliberate on the political report and a report by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Party's anti-corruption watchdog.

They will also elect a new Central Committee which will then elect a new Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee, the top-decision making body of the party.

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