(Bloomberg) – China must redouble its efforts to ensure stability and strengthen self-reliance, President Xi Jinping told lawmakers in a speech marking the start of his record-breaking third term in office.
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“Security is the basis for development and stability is the precondition for prosperity,” Xi said on Monday at the conclusion of the annual National People’s Congress. He vowed to oppose foreign interference in Taiwan, a veiled reference to rising US support for the democratically elected government in Taipei.
The comments cap a year-long realignment that has demonstrated Xi’s dominance over the nation of 1.4 billion people, overhauling the government and putting allies in key positions. On Friday, the NPC voted unanimously to give Xi a third five-year term after removing constitutional provisions in 2018 that would have prevented him from staying in office.
Later Monday, Xi’s former personal secretary, Li Qiang, will hold his first annual news briefing since being installed as prime minister and the second official of the Communist Party. He Lifeng, another close ally of Xi, was named deputy prime minister on Sunday, signaling he could become the country’s top economic official.
Xi has used the annual parliamentary meeting to hit back at the US for trying to prevent the country’s rise. Last week, he called on the private sector to help overcome “comprehensive containment and repression by Western countries led by the US”, while his secretary of state warned of the risk of “conflict and confrontation”.
The US is increasingly using export controls, sanctions and other punitive measures to prevent China from acquiring technology that could give it an economic and military advantage, particularly in the fields of semiconductors and artificial intelligence. The Biden administration is working to further tighten its restrictions on the export of chip-making equipment to China, Bloomberg News reported last week.
Xi called for “reasonable” growth in the economy with an emphasis on improving the quality of that expansion. Officials should accelerate the building of a new growth framework that prioritizes boosting domestic demand, fostering innovation and self-sufficiency in science and technology, upgrading the industrial sector and promoting low-carbon development, he said.
“We must vigorously pursue high-quality development,” Xi said. “We must strive for an effective improvement in the quality of the economy and reasonable growth in its quantity.”
In line with that strategy, the government set a modest target for gross domestic product growth this year of around 5%, indicating that there will be no major monetary or fiscal stimulus to boost the recovery. Authorities are shifting focus to addressing risk in the financial sector and plan to strengthen oversight with a new strong regulator for the sector.
Xi’s speech related that the narrative of the ruling Communist Party had helped orchestrate the revival of the Asian nation after a “century of humiliation” at the hands of foreign powers. China had “stood up, got rich and got strong,” Xi said, repeating an oft-used slogan.
The country’s “great rejuvenation” was irreversible, he declared to thousands of party members in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, who applauded regularly during Xi’s breaks.
–With help from Colum Murphy, Jing Li, Lin Zhu and James Mayger.
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