By Gaurav Sharma
Beijing, Oct 18 (IANS) Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday said China was for peaceful settlement of disputes with its neighbours but asserted it won’t “swallow” whatever undermines Beijing’s interests.
Delivering a three-and-a-half-hour speech at the packed Great Hall, Xi also pledged to transform the armed forces into a world-class military and safeguard China’s sovereignty.
At the opening day of a seven-day 19th Party Congress of CPC, Xi’s speech was peppered with national rejuvenation, Chinese socialism, loyalty to the party and China’s achievements in the past five years.
“China will never pursue development at the expense of others’ interests, nor will China ever give up its legitimate rights and interests. No one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests,” Xi said at the iconic venue.
He said China would “deepen relations its neighbours in accordance with the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness and the policy of forging friendship and partnership.
“We should commit to settling disputes through dialogue and resolving differences through discussion, coordinate responses to traditional and non-traditional threats and oppose terrorism in all its forms,” added Xi, who is set to be re-elected the General Secretary of the Communist Party.
China has decades-old land dispute with India and Bhutan while it is in confrontation with littoral countries over the South China Sea and East China Sea.
China and India ended in August over two months of military stand-off at Dokalm on their border.
On a rain-soaked morning, Xi said military mechanization would be achieved by 2020 and the application of IT in the force had come a long way.
“The armed forces will be transformed into a world-class military by the mid-21st century,” he declared amid rapturous applause.
Xi, the Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, called for unflinching loyalty from the Army towards the party.
China has the world’s largest standing Army of 2.3 million. Unlike in other countries, the Chinese Army is political.
Xi has carried massive military reforms and decided to cut the number of troops to below one million.
“We must enhance the political loyalty of the armed forces,” Xi said, adding that focus must be on combat.
Addressing 2,280 party delegates from different parts of China, Xi said the party would resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests.
Xi, who at the last Congress in 2012 talked about “China’s dream”, used the term “national rejuvenation” several times.
Xi, who is set to get a second five-year term as General Secretary at the event, talked about the success of his anti-graft campaign.
“We have taken out tigers, swat flies and hunted down foxes. The goal of creating a deterrent against corruption has been initially attained.”
Xi also vowed to reunite self-ruled Taiwan with China.
China considers Taiwan a wayward province which it dreams to reunite with the mainland, even by force if needed.
The opening day of the Congress was attended by Xi’s predecessors Hu Jintao and 91-year-old Jiang Zemin.
Xi was flanked by the two leaders. While he was delivering the speech, a bespectacled Zemin was seen reading the work report by using a magnifier.
At the once-in-five-years event, party delegates meet to decide the top leadership of the country of 1.3 billion.
Xi’s re-election as General Secretary — China’s top post — and a reshuffle in the all-powerful seven-member Politburo Standing Committee and other bodies will be the highlights of the event.
The Congress will chart the course for China’s next five years in the economy and foreign policy besides domestic issues.
This year’s Congress is primarily seen as an event where Xi, who has emerged as China’s most powerful leader in decades, will amass more power.