Xi keeps use of force over Taiwan on table in party congress speech

Posted on : 2022-10-17 16:29 KST Modified on : 2022-10-17 16:29 KST
In a nearly 2-hour speech, the Chinese leader said that China reserves the option of “taking all measures necessary”
President Xi Jinping (left) of China and former leader Hu Jintao take part in the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on Oct. 16 in Beijing. (Reuters/Yonhap)
President Xi Jinping (left) of China and former leader Hu Jintao take part in the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on Oct. 16 in Beijing. (Reuters/Yonhap)

The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, China’s biggest political event in years, kicked off at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sunday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, 69, promised to achieve reunification with Taiwan, declaring that China would never forswear the use of force. There’s no doubt that Xi will cement a third five-year term in office during this party summit, breaking with the two-term norm to which Chinese leaders have adhered since the 1980s.

In a prepared speech about party business that lasted for one hour and 45 minutes on Sunday, Xi made the following remarks about his Taiwan policy. “We will continue to strive for peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and the utmost effort, but we will never promise to renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary.”

“The wheels of history are rolling on toward China's reunification and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Complete reunification of our country must be realized, and it can, without doubt, be realized,” Xi added.

China has long maintained that because the Taiwan issue is a domestic matter, it has no need to publicly forswear the use of force. It has also held that it will use force if Taiwan declares independence. Those positions appeared in a white paper on Taiwan that the Chinese State Council released one week following the visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, in early August.

While it might seem that Xi is merely reiterating China’s basic stance on Taiwan, he’s attempting to secure an unprecedented third term as China’s paramount leader. His remarks are coming under scrutiny because some think he may try to resolve the issue of reunification with Taiwan before leaving office, so as to justify the extension of his leadership.

Xi made no mention of force in regard to Taiwan when he delivered a speech about party business at the 19th party congress in October 2017. At that time, he only said that China would “never allow anyone, any organization, or any political party, at any time or in any form, to separate any part of Chinese territory from China.”

Xi has toughened his remarks about Taiwan both because China’s strategic competition with the US has heated up over the past five years and also because Taiwan itself has emerged as a key factor in that competition.

In addition to the issue of Taiwan, Xi said that the keywords that will define China in years to come are the “Chinese dream,” or the renaissance of the Chinese nation; the construction of a “great modern socialist country,” or the campaign to build a superpower that can eclipse the US; and “common prosperity,” or increased redistribution.

Xi said the “central task” of the party going forward would be to lead the Chinese people to realize the goals of building a great modern socialist country and to fully promote the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

“Party comrades: We must strictly manage the Party and must not delay our self-revolution,” Xi said.

Xi said that rule under a single leader — the party, and Xi — must be reinforced if China is to overcome the grave challenges it faces both at home and overseas.

In his message, Xi made several mentions of “Xi Jinping thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era,” which was added to the party’s constitution in 2017, but strikingly left out his own name.

“‘Xi Jinping’ is part of the official name [of that concept], but he omitted that from his speech. He apparently felt it would be awkward to mention his own name in a speech he was delivering,” said Ahn Chi-yeong, director of the Academy of Chinese Studies at Incheon National University.

The authorities kept an ironclad grip on central Beijing on Sunday, setting up barricades and deploying police, both uniformed and in plainclothes, on Chang’an Avenue, in Tiananmen Square and at the Great Hall of the People, where the congress was held. Hu Jintao, aged 80, attended the event, but Jiang Zemin, who turned 96 years this year, did not.

The party congress will continue through Oct. 22, after which the party’s leadership for the next five years will be decided and the party’s constitution will be revised.

By Choi Hyun-june, Beijing correspondent

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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