CHINESE President sets out ambitious plans for Asian powerhouse in epic three-hour speech, with huge implications for Australia.
BEIJING has outlined plans to become the world’s biggest superpower within the next 30 years.
Opening a five-yearly national congress, Chinese President Xi Jinping set out his time frame for the country to become a “global leader” with international influence.
In his 3 ½ hour speech, Mr Xi urged a reinvigorated Communist Party to take a stronger role in society and economic development to better address the nation’s “grim” challenges.
Speaking in the massive Great Hall of the People near Tiananmen Square, Mr Xi laid out his vision of a ruling party that served as the vanguard for everything from defending national security to providing moral guidance.
He also called for the party not only to safeguard China’s sovereignty but also to revitalise Chinese culture, oppose “erroneous” ideology and promote religion that is “Chinese in orientation”.
He said “it was time for his nation to transform itself into a mighty force” that could lead the entire world on political, economic, military and environmental issues, The Guardian reported.
“The Chinese nation … has stood up, grown rich, and become strong — and it now embraces the brilliant prospects of rejuvenation … It will be an era that sees China moving closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind,” Mr Xi said.
Hailing the start of a “new era”, Mr Xi outlined a vision in which the party would lead China on the road to becoming a “great modern socialist country” by the mid-century.
“The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is no walk in the park or mere drum-beating and gong-clanging. The whole party must be prepared to make ever more difficult and harder efforts,” Mr Xi told hundreds of delegates.
“To achieve great dreams there must be a great struggle.”
In a rare acknowledgment of the country’s economic issues, Mr Xi said China’s “prospects are bright but the challenges are grim”.
Critics argue China’s plans are ambitious given it has massive demographic issues and slowed economic growth.
CHINA’S BIG PLAN
Senior analyst in defence strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Dr Malcolm Davis, told news.com.au Mr Xi’s message was loud and clear.
“China just doesn’t want to be a just regional superpower, it wants to be the superpower,” he said.
Dr Davis said Beijing wanted to challenge US supremacy and reshape the region according to China’s interests and economic development.
However, he acknowledged China faced several domestic challenges which stood in the way of its long-term goal, including suppression of democracy and freedom of speech.
Dr Davis also said Beijing faced a huge demographic problem with an increasing ageing population and declining birthrate.
This, in turn, would further impact on economic growth.
“Like all authoritarian governments, Beijing sees anything which challenges it as a problem and will crack down hard on that,” Dr Davis said.
“After the Tiananmen Square massacre, Beijing said to its people: ‘If you forgo democracy, we will give you prosperity.’”
He questioned what would happen once China’s prosperity ran out and the disparity between rural and city and the elite and the common man was more obvious.
Dr Davis pointed out Beijing was a major maritime power which the US was aware of and one which was determined to assert its dominance, particularly in the South China Sea.
He said China was also trying to make other countries sign up to its One Belt, One Road infrastructure investment project.
By doing this Beijing was extending its influence over other countries which would align themselves more with China than the US.
Dr Davis said China’s plans had a direct impact on Australia.
“Australia was just a backwater when Cold War was taking place, now we are right in the frontline” he said.
“The South China Sea is not far away and China is extending its reach into the Indian Ocean as well.
“We are an ally of the US and a vital partner in any potential conflict. We are front and centre of anything to do with China.”
‘MUSCULAR WORLD VIEW’
Mr Xi may have extolled China’s many great assets, but according to New York-based Asian specialist Sean King, the Chinese President made his keynote speech all about himself.
Mr Xi was “clearly positioning himself” for a possible third term.
“People need to stop calling this event a congress as if it’s some kind of legitimate political event,” Mr King said.
“It’s one man (Xi) controlling the only party in a one-party state. How is that political theatre?”
Mr King said the President may be seeking to modernise his country in regards to infrastructure and technology, but his speech showed cause for concern.
Indications showed the country was also going backwards when it came to internet freedom, free speech and the right to worship, he said.
“Xi’s muscular world view can mean trouble for the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) immediate neighbours who typically look to America for security but who now almost openly question our commitment to the region,” Mr King said.
“In particular, our South China Sea friends and allies, as well as Japan’s concerns over its Senkaku Islands.”
Mr King said Australia, Japan, India and other like-minded democracies might conclude they have to take things into their own hands, co-operating more among each other, in the event that the US wasn’t there.
“Our (US) quitting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which didn’t start out as such but evolved into an economic power play against Beijing, only furthers these fears,” he said.
MAN BEHIND THE POWER
Mr Xi opened the congress which is expected to enhance his already formidable power.
In his speech, Mr Xi hailed China’s island-building efforts in the disputed South China Sea as well as his signature foreign-policy initiative, the One Belt, One Road infrastructure investment project aimed at improving connections between China, Europe and Africa.
Mr Xi wields undisputed power and is expected to get a second five-year term as party leader at the gathering.
However, critics claim he has consolidated his power by sidelining his competitors in other intra-party cliques, including those surrounding his immediate predecessor Hu Jintao and former leader Jiang Zemin.