BEIJING - Security will continue to be imperative for China’s development, President Xi Jinping said on Monday as he laid out his priorities for an unprecedented third term.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the annual legislative meetings, Mr Xi also called on the country to be self-sufficient in science and technology, amid the United States’ blocking of China’s access to chip-making equipment and other cutting-edge technologies.
“Security is the bedrock of development, while stability is a prerequisite for prosperity,” he said, adding that the military will build a “Great Wall of steel” to guard the nation’s interest.
China must have a comprehensive, systematic approach to ensure national security, Mr Xi told nearly 3,000 delegates.
“(We must) increase our ability to protect national security, raise public security and safety standards, perfect social governance systems and ensure our new developmental patterns are in line with our security aims.”
On Taiwan, which China claims as its own, Mr Xi said Beijing must oppose pro-independence and secessionist activities and the interference of external forces, in a veiled reference to increasing American support for the island.
He also stressed the need to adhere to the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, actively promoting the peaceful development of cross-strait relations, but making no mention of reserving the right to unify Taiwan by all means possible.
The 1992 Consensus is a tacit agreement that both sides of the Taiwan Strait are part of one China, though what that means is open to different interpretations.
In a speech lasting just over 15 minutes, Mr Xi alluded to the challenging international environment, but did not directly mention the US.
“China’s development benefits the world, and China’s development cannot be separated from the world,” he said.
Mr Xi also vowed to strengthen supervision of the Communist Party of China (CPC) so that it “never changes its nature and colour”, an indication that his signature anti-corruption campaign will stay.
With the country facing a Covid-19-ravaged economy, growing wealth and income gaps as well as a declining population, he called for “reasonable” economic growth with a focus on improving the quality of that expansion.
New policies should prioritise boosting domestic demand, driving innovation and self-reliance in science and technology, upgrading the industrial sector and promoting low-carbon development, he said.
This was also touched on by new Premier Li Qiang during his media conference on Monday, saying that China will work towards enhancing its capacity in science, technology and innovation.
“We will make greater efforts… to create a new pattern for development and concentrate our efforts on promoting high-quality development,” he said.
Mr Li also pledged to create a better business environment for private companies in China, urging the government to form closer ties with entrepreneurs.
The parliamentary meetings over the past week, which saw the National People’s Congress (NPC) vote to officially confirm government positions, have completed the leadership transition started at the CPC’s Party Congress in 2022.
During the twice-in-a-decade meeting in October, Mr Xi had stacked the Politburo Standing Committee – the pinnacle of power in China – with loyalists, including Premier Li.
Last Friday, the NPC unanimously endorsed Mr Xi as president and head of the Central Military Commission, cementing his position as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.
Beginning in the late 1970s, Chinese leaders had sought to separate party and state, sharing power between the president and the premier.
This was to ensure that no one person had too much power in his hands, in a bid to prevent a repeat of the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, while ensuring a two-term limit.
This was scrapped by Mr Xi in 2018.