China’s President Xi Jinping marked the 40th anniversary of the opening up of the Chinese economy by a strong speech that had some measure of warning to external actors.
“No one is in a position to dictate to the Chinese people what should or should not be done,” Xi said in a speech marking the 40th anniversary of the opening up of the Chinese economy. “We must resolutely reform what should and can be changed, we must resolutely not reform what shouldn’t and can’t be changed.”
The speech comes as China is embroiled in a multi-billion trade war with the U.S. President Donald Trump has demanded further reforms to the Chinese economy, including greater access for US companies and a clampdown on intellectual property theft.
Xi's speech lasting over 80 minutes did not offer any indication of relaxation of the ruling Communist party's firm grip on political power or concrete policies to tackle China's complex economic problems like slower growth and an ongoing trade war with the United States. "(We must) oppose the practices of imposing one's will upon others, interfering in others' internal affairs or the strong bullying the weak," he said.
Xi’s remarks focused on the supremacy of the ruling Chinese Communist party. China is "increasingly approaching the centre of the world stage," he said and noted that the country pursues a defensive national defence policy. "China's development does not pose a threat to any country. No matter how far China develops, it will never seek hegemony," the Chinese president assured jittery neighbours who are worried over Beijing's growing economic clout. Beijing has also rigorously projected its power in the South China Sea.
At a grand ceremony held in Beijing's imposing Great Hall of the People, telecast live across China, Xi praised the Chinese people's "hard work, wisdom and courage" and listed its achievements since late leader Deng Xiaoping launched the era of "Reform and Opening" in 1978.
China's economy will produce "miracles that will impress the world" in the coming years, the 65-year-old top leader said while noting that there is no textbook of golden rules to follow for reform and development in China, a country with over 5,000 years of civilisation and more than 1.3 billion people. The reform and opening-up is a great revolution in the history of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation, he said.
"It is the great revolution that propelled a quantum leap forward in the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics," Xi, also General Secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, said. Xi is widely seen as China's most influential leader since Mao. In 2017, he cemented his power, enshrining his political views in the Constitution. China's economic reform was initiated by Deng in 1978 and the programme was ratified on 18 December that year.
Today, China holds about 10 per cent of global wealth. China now has 600 billionaires, a higher number than anywhere else in the world. Xi described the reforms pioneered by Deng and the ruling party as a "break from the shackles" of previous mistakes. He noted that China has lifted 740 million people out of poverty in the 40 years. "The country has maintained its social stability over a long period, making it one of the countries that provide the greatest sense of safety in the world," Xi said.
Despite the economic reforms, the past decades have not brought change to China's rigid one-party system of communist rule. "The Party must guide the overall situation...and see that China's ship of reform and opening up will break waves and sail on the right course," Xi said.