People’s Congress in China: Xi wants army as “wall of steel”

Status: 03/13/2023 08:14 a.m

In the rivalry with the USA, China’s head of state and party leader Xi is relying on modernization and a strong military. It should become a “great wall of steel,” he said at the end of the People’s Congress. In return, defense spending will be increased.

China’s head of state and party leader Xi Jinping wants to turn the Chinese military into a “great wall of steel”. In a speech at the end of the annual session of the People’s Congress in Beijing, the President said that the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army should be promoted “in order to effectively safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests”.

Against the background of tensions with the United States, the almost 3,000 delegates had previously approved a sharp increase in defense spending this year by 7.2 percent.

In the uncertain times, Xi called for maintaining stability. “Security is the foundation for development and stability is the precondition for prosperity,” said the President. In his speech, he advocated promoting innovation and “scientific and technological independence”. However, he did not go into the US sanctions on key technologies. “We should strive to effectively improve the quality of the economy and achieve reasonable quantitative growth.”

Xi calls for ‘reunification’ with Taiwan

In addition, Xi again called for the democratically governed island of Taiwan to be annexed to the People’s Republic and called for “reunification”. Relations should be developed “peacefully,” but “outside interference” and “splittist activities” by Taiwan pro-independence forces must be firmly rejected, Xi said in his speech to delegates at the Great Hall of the People.

The unification process must be pushed “unshakeably”. This time, however, Xi did not repeat earlier statements that Beijing would not rule out the use of military force if other efforts are unsuccessful.

Tensions around Taiwan had recently increased, but the president seemed comparatively cautious in his comments on Taiwan. The state and party leaders regard Taiwan as a separate part of the country, although the island has never been under the control of the Communist Party.

There was a long round of applause from the undemocratically elected delegates for the most powerful man in China in decades. Xi was confirmed by the People’s Congress on Friday for an unusual third term as head of state. In order to remain at the top of the state and party, he had already had the constitution changed in 2018. The 69-year-old also ignores the previous age limit.

Li is more forgiving

In view of the tense relations with the USA, the new Prime Minister Li Qiang struck a rather conciliatory note at his first press conference and pleaded for an expansion of cooperation. Disconnection serves no one. The two largest economies are closely linked, from which both benefit. “China and the US can and must work together.” He only indirectly responded to Xi’s accusation that the US wanted to prevent China’s rise in the world through containment and isolation: “Encirclement and suppression is in nobody’s interest.”

However, it will not be easy for China to achieve growth of around five percent as planned, Li said. Additional efforts are necessary. The prospects for the global economy are “not optimistic”. China sees many uncertainties, instability and unpredictable events. “Stabilizing economic growth is a challenging task not only for China but for all countries in the world.”

Corona policy defended

Li defended China’s anti-pandemic response as the right approach. Despite the sometimes chaotic conditions in December and the many deaths, the new Prime Minister spoke of a victory over the virus and a smooth transition.

Li was partly responsible for the tough lockdown in Shanghai last year. The more than 25 million inhabitants were not allowed to leave their homes for two months. Some people had too little to eat and no drinking water.

Observers see the fact that he was promoted to prime minister despite the sometimes chaotic conditions as a sign that one thing counts above all for a rise in the Communist Party: loyalty to Xi.

With information from Benjamin Eyssel, ARD studio Beijing

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