At Communist Party centenary, Xi says China will not be bullied

BEIJING (AP) – Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday warned that anyone attempting to intimidate China “will face broken heads and bloodshed” in a provocative speech hailing the country’s rise that has sparked cheers from a carefully chosen crowd at a celebration of the centenary of the founding of the ruling Communist Party.

In unusually forceful language, Xi appeared to strike back at the United States and others who criticized the rising power’s trade and technology policies, military expansion, and the human rights record. In an hour-long speech, he also said the nation should stick to its one-party rule, stressing the role of the Communists in raising China to the forefront of the world stage.

The rally – which featured a military flyby and people waving Chinese flags and singing patriotic songs – was in some ways reminiscent of the mass events organized by Mao Zedong, the founding leader of Communist China. Xi even wore a button-down gray suit like the one Mao preferred and spoke from the same balcony atop the Tiananmen Gate where the revolutionary leader declared the start of communist rule in 1949. More than 70,000 people attended on Thursday, according to the report. the official newspaper of Xinhua News. Agency.

Xi, who heads the party and is considering a third term from next year, received the biggest applause when he said the party had restored China’s dignity after decades of subjugation to Western powers and in Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries, and has become the world’s second-largest economy in recent decades.

“The Chinese people will absolutely not allow any foreign force to intimidate, oppress or enslave us and anyone who tries to do so will face broken heads and bloodshed in front of the Great Iron Wall of 1.4. billion Chinese, ”said Xi, who has removed the limits on his tenure, sparking speculation he could rule for life, as Mao did.

The strong language seemed meant to speed up and perform in front of a national audience. The strongest elements of it – references to headbuttings and bloodshed – were omitted from the English translation of the quote by state media.

Xi said China restored order to Hong Kong following the 2019 anti-government protests and reiterated the Communist Party’s determination to bring Taiwan under its control.

Both of these policies have been widely criticized by Western democracies. They accused the Communist Party of abusing its power at home, including detaining over a million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities for political re-education in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. , and for imprisoning or silencing those he sees as potential opponents of Tibet. in Hong Kong.

As part of a continued crackdown on anti-government protests in the city, which has long enjoyed freedoms never seen on the mainland, Hong Kong police cordoned off Victoria Park on Thursday. In the past, the park was the starting point for the annual pro-democracy marches on July 1, the anniversary of the British return from Hong Kong to China in 1997.

Xi also said the party would retain absolute control over the military, which now has the second-largest annual budget in the world after the United States. safeguard the sovereignty, security and development interests of the nation, ”he said.

Xi appears to be preparing China for a protracted struggle with the United States, said Robert Sutter of the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University. He said China was pursuing “its very egocentric political goals to the detriment of others and the dominant world order.”

China and the United States are increasingly at odds over the former’s claims over almost all of the South China Sea and over uninhabited islands held by Japan, a US ally. The United States has also increased military ties and sales to Taiwan to deter China from forcibly taking the Autonomous Democratic Island. Elsewhere, the Chinese and Indian armies clashed last year over a disputed border in the mountains.

Taiwan, commenting on the anniversary, accused China of seeking to overturn the international order with the ambition of becoming a regional or even global hegemony. “Democracy, liberty, human rights and the rule of law are the core values ​​of Taiwanese society, and the gap with the authoritarian political system of the other side is considerable,” a statement from the government reads. government.

The Tiananmen Square event was the culmination of weeks of ceremonies and exhibitions praising the role of the Communist Party in dramatically improving the quality of life and expanding the economic, political and military influence of China. These achievements, coupled with a harsh crackdown on all critics, helped the party stay in power.

The official party narrative ignores past mistakes or current controversies, such as the mass starvation of the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the violent class war and the xenophobia of the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 and the military intervention of 1989 which crushed a movement for democracy in Tiananmen Square.

Instead, he’s focused on development, stability, and efficiency – including his success in controlling COVID-19 – unlike what he describes as political wrangling, the mess of pandemic control. and social conflicts in multiparty democracies.

Looking skyward, the crowd cheered a flyby of military planes, including number “100” helicopters and a squadron of China’s J-20 stealth planes. The last group of jets streaked blue, yellow and red streaks across the sky.

The party faces no serious challenges to its government, but it is difficult to assess the level of public support as few would dare to criticize it for fear of being arrested. Yang Shaocheng, a retired construction worker, said he was proud of his homeland’s achievements under the Communist regime.

“I think the Communist Party can go on for a thousand years, ten thousand years,” Yang said.

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