Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Xi warns that he will not “give up the use of armed force” to achieve reunification with Taiwan

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“Taiwan belongs to China,” the country’s president, Xi Jinping, proclaimed this Sunday during the speech with which he marked the opening of the XX Congress of the Communist Party. The president has assured that he will pursue “peaceful reunification” with the island with “the maximum effort”, but Beijing will never agree “to renounce the use of armed force”, he added in the most heated moment of his speech in the Great Beijing People’s Hall. During the country’s great five-year political appointment, which began this Sunday and will continue throughout this week, Xi is expected to consolidate an unprecedented third term. And Taiwan, he has made clear, is an objective that China “surely” can meet: “Let us make the complete reunification of the homeland a reality without fail,” he has said.

The speech lasted nearly two hours – well below the 203 minutes of five years ago – and in it he reviewed the great issues on the table, from the economy to the pandemic; from technological and military development to the turbulent waters of the geopolitical theater; from the health of the “world’s largest ruling Marxist party” to the modernization of this ideology “with Chinese characteristics”. He has highlighted that the last five years, for which he is accountable to the party, have been an “unusual and extraordinary” time. But he has framed his words within the “complex international situation” with “abrupt changes”, which poses “challenges never seen before”.

“The world is once again at a historical crossroads” caused by “acts of hegemony, authoritarianism and bullying.” Faced with this, Xi has proposed China’s “independent and peace foreign policy”, has denounced the “Cold War mentality” and has assured that he will promote “the construction of a new type of international relations”, which is one of the those concepts that concern the United States: Washington warned this week, in its national security strategy, that the Asian giant “is the only country with, at the same time, the intention of reconfiguring the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to further that goal.”

Xi Jinping greets those attending the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China, this Sunday in Beijing. Photo: MARK SCHIEFELBEIN (AP) | Video: EPV

The tension between the two superpowers on multiple fronts is embodied in the Taiwan Strait, whose waters have been churning and churning since Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, visited the self-governing island in early August. that China claims as an inalienable part of its territory. After her trip, Beijing deployed military exercises in the Strait and broke cooperation with Washington on key issues, such as climate change.

Xi has referred to the United States, without mentioning it, by claiming that Beijing could adopt “all necessary measures”, including the possible use of force, “against the interference of external forces” and what he has called “severe provocations”. ” in Taiwan affairs. His words are not new. But they come at a critical time, and they have resounded loudly in the Great Hall of the People.

If the applause in this immense assembly hall, located on one side of Tiananmen Square, is a thermometer of the feeling of what the head of state, president of the Central Military Commission and general secretary of the party has called “the Chinese people ”, the question of Taiwan is the only one that has really aroused the spirit of the nearly 2,300 delegates who came from all corners of China.

Shortly after Xi’s warnings, the Taipei presidential office issued a statement stressing that it will not back down from its commitment to freedom and democracy and reiterating that conflict between the two sides is not an option, Reuters reported.

The Chinese president has also spoken about the situation in Hong Kong and what he has called the “turbulent developments” of recent years, in which the pro-democracy movement has fought to preserve the rights of the autonomous territory in the face of the National Security Law imposed by Beijing. “The central government exercised its jurisdiction to ensure that Hong Kong was ruled by patriots. We restored order,” Xi said.

The speech started shortly after 10:00 (local time) with a “Comrades!”, just after listening to the national anthem played by a military band from the amphitheater. The general secretary has been reeling it off with a rhythmic and solemn voice. From time to time, his words have been interrupted with brief and mimetic applause, without much emotion – except with the aforementioned case of the Taiwanese question and when speaking of the fight against corruption, another of the cornerstones of his decade. . And above his words, every so often, the turning of the pages of the copy of the speech by the delegates was heard, all perfectly synchronized, producing a light and harmonious sound, like the flapping of doves.

Xi spoke from a lectern at the front of the stage, slightly to the left, with the more than 200 members of the Standing Committee sitting at desks behind him. This is the body that is renewed at the end of the congress, and from which the Politburo – 25 members – and the Permanent Committee – seven members, including Xi – will emerge, which make up the pinnacle of power. Behind the leaders, ten huge red flags rise, their folds converging into a huge gold-colored hammer and sickle symbol: the absolute center of the vast room.

The secretary general, who over a decade has been reinforcing his control in all areas, and in 2018 managed to eliminate presidential term limits from the Constitution, opening the door to its continuity, has highlighted the absolute centrality at the head of the State by a group with more than 96 million members: “The Communist Party of China constitutes the supreme political leadership force”. And he, from the top, wants to revalidate himself as a leader.

In the speech, Xi highlighted what are, in his opinion, the three great milestones of his decade in power: the “entrance of socialism with Chinese characteristics of the new era” ―the thought that bears his stamp, and that could to be elevated to the heights of Maoism in the reform of the Constitution of the party that will be debated during the conclave―; the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, celebrated in 2021, and the culmination of the goal of achieving a “moderately prosperous society”, which opens the door to new goals. By 2035, he has proclaimed, the country will have made “a substantial leap” in “economic-scientific-technological power”; by 2050, China will have become “a powerful, prosperous, democratic, civilized, harmonious, and beautiful modern socialist country,” leading “in international influence.”

During the review of his decade he has dropped big figures, such as the increase in GDP from 54 billion yuan to 114 billion (7.7 billion and 16.30 billion euros, respectively). Despite the slowdown it has suffered in recent years, exacerbated by the pandemic and especially this last year, due to the cocktail of problems linked to the covid-zero strategy and the real estate crisis, the consolidation of the country in the second position of the global economies, raising its contribution to world GDP by 7.2 points, to 18.5%.

Regarding the covid pandemic, one of those fronts in which many awaited a possible modulation of the strict policy that implies massive tests and total or partial closures of cities as soon as a few cases are detected, the leader has defended his commitment to “prevent importing cases and spikes from within the country, and unhesitatingly persevering in real-time suppression of outbreaks.” This strategy, he has pointed out, has given “positive results” in epidemiological terms and allowed “economic and social development”.

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