Xi Jinping Says China to Become Dominant World Power Within 30 Years

Chinese President Xi Jinping hailed the achievements of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and confidently declared its future goals on Thursday as tens of thousands gathered in Beijing to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

The paramount leader, who donned a Mao suit while other officials arrived in formal attire, told attendees at Tiananmen Square that the party had accomplished its centennial goal of creating a "moderately prosperous society."

"[W]e now march in confident strides toward the second 100-year goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects," he declared, referring to the People's Republic of China centennial in 2049.

Xi heaped praise on the party's early history, including its humble working-class roots in the years after Russia's October Revolution. The Chinese leader's speech exuded a sense of bullishness—even assertiveness—as he pronounced China's readiness to fend off bullying and oppression by "foreign forces."

"We have never bullied, oppressed or subjugated the people of any other country, and we never will," he told the nation, before warning of the party's "unshakeable commitment" to resolving the "Taiwan question."

China's Xi Jinping Waves At Tiananmen Crowd
Chinese President and Chairman of the Communist Party Xi Jinping (top, C) waves to the crowd after his speech by the portrait of the late Chairman Mao Zedong above Tiananmen Gate at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China on July 1, 2021, at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Highlighting the achievements of the party's first 100 years, the Chinese leader, 68, mentioned the eradication of absolute poverty—a goal it had announced last November when it said every citizen was now living above the country's standard of 2,300 yuan ($355) a year.

Along the way, Xi said, China went from a closed and planned economy to an open-market socialist economy, eventually becoming the second-largest in the world in 2010. He evoked the late leader Deng Xiaoping's "reform and opening-up" economic vision, which he called a "decisive move for China's fate."

"China has caught up with the times," he added.

In his hour-long address, Xi said the CPC had helped China overcome "subversion, sabotage and armed provocation by imperialist and hegemonic powers."

The party was central in dismantling the "old world" and building a new one, he added. It was a callback to the famous Mao Zedong-era slogan that he would later also repeat: "Without the Communist Party, there would be no New China."

"Only socialism could save China. Only socialism with Chinese characteristics can develop China," Xi declared.

China's Communist Party chairman referenced the contributions of notable former leaders, including Mao, Deng, Jiang Zemin and his immediate predecessor Hu Jintao.

As large crowds watched on, many without masks, the central section of Xi's speech reinforced the centrality of the CPC in the country.

"The leadership of the party is the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics, as well as the greatest strength of the system," he said. It is the crux upon which "all Chinese people depend," the president noted.

"We must uphold the party's overall leadership and continue to enhance its leadership," Xi said, noting: "Marxism works."

The CPC's vision of a "great modern socialist country in all respects" inevitably involves a world-beating military, which some China watchers say seeks to outcompete the United States in the region, perhaps globally.

Xi stressed the importance of military strength and military strategy as China embarks on its next phase of development. The party's "absolute leadership over the armed forces" is paramount, he said, as is the loyalty of its troops.

The "Chinese path to military development" would include Beijing's continued participation in "global development" and the preservation of the international order, he said. The country would also pursue a "new type of international relations," he added, before mentioning his central foreign policy endeavor, the Belt and Road Initiative.

A defiant Xi, who was overseeing the most significant event of his leadership thus far, said the country would "never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress or subjugate us," drawing a loud applause.

"Anyone who attempts to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel, forged by the flesh and blood of over 1.4 billion Chinese people," he said to some of the loudest cheers of the morning.

With Carrie Lam in attendance, Xi remarked on the central government's authority over Hong Kong and Macau, as well as China's "one country, two systems" model, which is meant to grant each city a "high degree of autonomy."

In some of his most bellicose sentences of the day, Xi turned to the topic Taiwan, which he has hinted at capturing in his lifetime.

"Resolving the Taiwan question and realizing China's complete unification is a historic mission and an unshakable commitment of the Communist Party of China," he told the crowd from atop Tiananmen.

"All the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation, including compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, must come together, move forward and resolutely oppose any attempt at Taiwan independence," the Chinese president said.

"No one should underestimate the great resolve, the strong will and the extraordinary capability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity," he concluded, drawing more loud cheers.

China's Xi Jinping Addresses Communist Party Celebrations
Members of the audience wear raincoats as they listen to a speech by Chinese President and Chairman of the Communist Party Xi Jinping at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party on July 1, 2021, at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

In his address, Xi did not abandon the phrase "peaceful national unification," but Beijing had already formalized its policy of never renouncing the use of force against Taiwan with the passing of its Anti-Secession Law 16 years earlier.

In his closing, the Chinese leader, who is expected to be re-elected for a third term next year, called backed his "Chinese Dream" and the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."

"The Communist Part of China is still in its prime," he said, describing the CPC and its 95 million card-carrying members the "largest ruling party in the world." At a medal ceremony ahead of the official celebrations on Tuesday, Xi told CPC members to "sacrifice one's all, even one's live" for the party.

Professor Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at SOAS University of London, identifies the CPC's post-Deng political system as that of consultative Leninism.

But under its current chairman, "Xi has replaced a collective leadership by installing himself as the strongman at the top," Tsang argued. Instead of enlarging the scope for internal policy debate within the top echelon of the party, Xi has installed an "echo chamber," he told Newsweek.

With Xi's replacement of the standardized succession process, the party now works as a "Leninist instrument of control" under one core leader, he said.

Tsang added: "The system still works first and foremost to defend the Party's interest and its hold to power, though the Party is now so tightly controlled by the core leader that the distinction between the Party and the Leader is becoming less and less clear or relevant."

"But this core leader (Xi) thinks that whatever he (and by implication, the Party) does is good for China as a whole, and allows no scope for challenging such a view," he said.

According to Sense Egbert Hofstede, a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, Xi's heavy emphasis on party ideology would follow the leadership's "genuine belief in the body of thought" that is Marxism, Leninism, Maoism and Xi Jinping thought.

"Perhaps lower ranking officials do not believe in it, but the higher ones have spent their whole careers bathing in that thought and rising through the ranks on it," he said. "Every speech, People's Daily article, policy memorandum and so on has to fit within that ideological framework, so it starts to leave its mark, even subconsciously."

"Chinese nationalism and Chinese supremacy"—not only material benefits but also the chance to partake in "China's glory"—are how the CPC seeks to appeal to Chinese abroad, including in Singapore and Taiwan, Hofstede added.

China's Xi Jinping Addresses Communist Party Celebrations
Chinese President Xi Jinping (on screen) delivers a speech during the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China at Tiananmen Square on July 1, 2021, in Beijing, China. WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images

Update 07/01/2021, 6:05 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with further context throughout.