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China's Xi says Beijing will no longer be 'bullied'

July 1, 2021

The Chinese Communist Party celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding with a ceremony in Tiananmen Square. President Xi said the "great rejuvenation" of China is "irreversible."

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during CCP anniversary
Xi Jinping spoke to tens of thousands of people assembled in Tiananmen SquareImage: Li Xueren/XinHua/dpa/picture alliance

Chinese President Xi Jinping struck a defiant tone during a major address celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Beijing on Thursday.

Xi told a massive audience gathered at Tiananmen Square that "the era of China being slaughtered and bullied is gone forever."

"Anyone who dares try to do that will have their heads bashed bloody against the Great Wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people," the Chinese leader added to roaring applause.

Xi said the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has entered an irreversible historical course."

He credited the CCP with lifting millions of Chinese out of poverty and said it has built a "moderately prosperous society" during its 100-year reign. 

"The people of China are not only good at destroying the old world, they have also created a new world," Xi said. "Only socialism can save China."

How has Xi's speech been received?

Teng Biao, a Chinese human rights activist and lawyer, told DW that Xi's speech contained the "usual rhetoric" about the CCP's political ideology.

However, Teng added that this kind of "political discourse has no practical meaning."

"It's still pretty much the principle that whatever the Chinese Communist Party says is right," said Teng, who is also a visiting professor at the University of Chicago.

Xi's "explanation of history and theory is completely devoid of logic and reason. There are many contradictions and conflicts between the CCP’s theories and its historical practices," Teng added.

Ballons fly over Beijing during CCP celebration
The Chinese Communist Party was founded in 1921Image: Ng Han Guan/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Xi promises Taiwan 'reunification'

In regards to China's security, Xi said during his speech that China "must accelerate the modernization of national defense and the armed forces."

Under Xi, China has increased the size of its military, and has built outposts on islands in the South China Sea, while claiming most of the waters as Chinese territory.

On Taiwan, Xi said he wants to achieve "complete reunification" of the country and "smash" any efforts to grant the island independence from the mainland.

Taiwan responded shortly after Xi's speech, saying that its determination to defend its sovereignty and democracy remained unchanged.

"I think the emphasis on strengthening national defense and increasing military spending are also important means for the CCP to maintain one-party dictatorship, as this has always been its primary goal," said Teng.

How did the ceremony celebrate the CCP's founding?

In addition to a major address from Xi, the Tiananmen Square ceremony commemorated the CCP's founding with thousands of singers and a marching band. They performed patriotic songs praising the CCP.

One of the songs performed was titled "Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China." 

Those in attendance waved red CCP flags and cheered the performers. 

A group of helicopters and jets conducted a flyby over the square, with the aircraft spelling "100" in the sky with a CCP flag trailing behind.

Government data released this week shows there are at least 95 million members of the CCP in China.

Analysts stress caution over CCP's economic miracle

Chinese journalist Chang Ping told DW that: "the 70 years of Communist Party rule have seen the largest chaos in peacetime," pointing to events including the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and the June 4th Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

Chang noted that although China had made progress it still has some way to go before catching up with the economic output of Western and other Asian nations: "According to the International Monetary Fund, which published the latest GDP per capita in 2020, mainland China ranked 63rd, which is far behind the United States and Germany and also far behind Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea."

Chang noted that economy is not the only indicator of national success: "China is certainly an economic power, but the economy is not only the indicator of prosperity," he said. "Democracy, freedom and human rights are also crucial. "

He added that he believes that Europe's method of engaging with China is currently ineffective. Going forward, Europe "must change the way it engages with China and stop being satisfied with China's rhetorical promises."

Fraser Howie, an independent China analyst and author of "Red Capitalism," also stressed caution when it came to the narrative of China's economic miracle:

"German or US per capita GDP is multiples of what it is in China. China's rise over the past 40 years has brought it to what is average rates of global per capita GDP. We must remember that for the first 30 years of Chinese Communist Party rule, they largely ran the economy into the ground. There is a reason it was a peasant economy in the late 1970s, it was because of communist policies. It was the Communist Party getting out of the way and letting the Chinese themselves take control of their lives which has driven this phenomenal growth," Howie told DW.

He added that there were numerous problems ahead, such as an ageing population, but the biggest problem was Xi Jinping's "geopolitical overreach."

"Xi has basically picked a fight with the US and much of the rest of the developed world and yet China is highly dependent on the goodwill of much of the rest of the world for semiconductors, for oil, for many other commodities to continue its growth. The past 40 years are not a good indicator about what's coming in the next 40 years," Howie concluded.

Hong Kong police on alert for protests

Xi has also been criticized for a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and handing down a controversial national security law that was passed last year. 

Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee praised the law on Thursday during a ceremony marking the anniversary of the former British territory's return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Lee said the sweeping national security legislation had made "Hong Kong society change from chaos to order."

Thousands of police were out in force across Hong Kong on Thursday, ready to curb any signs of dissent or protests during the CCP anniversary celebrations. 

Victoria Park, a site of annual pro-democracy rallies marking the 1997 handover, was sealed off. Signs warned people could be prosecuted if they entered the park.

Xi at the height of power

CCP Chairman Mao Zedong established the People's Republic of China in 1949 amid a civil war.

Xi has become the country's most powerful leader since Mao, and has added his name to the country's constitution.

Since his 8 years in power, Xi has marshaled major domestic and foreign policy reforms by launching an anti-corruption campaign, silencing dissent domestically, and boosting China's global influence through the Belt and Road Initiative development strategy.

He has also been criticized by Western countries for putting members of the Muslim Uyghur minority into what are called "reeducation camps," but are considered by human rights groups to be internment camps where grave abuses are taking place

In 2022, the current Politburo Standing Committee is expected to step down and announce new leaders.

The question looming over next year's party congress is whether Xi will revive Mao's title of party chair, potentially allowing him to remain in power longer.

DW's Taipei correspondent William Yang contributed reporting.

wmr, wd/aw (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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