In a speech at the grandiose Great Hall of the People, Xi vowed to press ahead with economic reforms but made clear that Beijing will not deviate from its one-party system or take orders from any other country.
He said the Chinese Communist Party must exercise leadership and control over the opening up of the economy and underlined the country’s role in global affairs.
“We will resolutely uphold the authoritative and centralised leadership of the CPC Central Committee, and ensure that party leadership is implemented and reflected in reform, development, stability, domestic and foreign affairs, national defence, party, state, military and other fields,” he said.
“China is moving closer to the centre of the world stage and has become recognised by the international community as a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development and a defender of the international order,” he said.
“No one is in the position to dictate to the Chinese people what should be done.”
President Xi also said that the country's anti-corruption campaign had achieved overwhelming victory.
The speech marks the 40th anniversary of the reform era, in which the formally communist nation oriented its economy towards a capitalist, market-driven model.
The commemoration of the reforms enacted under the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping on Dec 18, 1978, came as China is locked in diplomatic spats and a bruising trade war with the United States.
The rivals have agreed to a 90-day truce as they seek to negotiate a solution, with the United States seeking a reduction in its massive trade deficit as well as deeper reforms in China to stop the alleged theft of intellectual property.
Without directly referring to the United States, Xi said China “poses no threat” to any country but warned that it would not be pushed around.
“No one is in a position to dictate to the Chinese people what should or should not be done,” Xi said. “We must resolutely reform what should and can be changed, we must resolutely not reform what shouldn’t and can’t be changed.”
While Xi promised more reforms, he did not offer any specifics. The United States and Europe have long complained of lingering obstacles to fully entering China’s massive market while Chinese companies enjoy the benefits of open Western economies abroad.
The reforms pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and turned China into the world’s second-biggest economy.
But China’s economy has slowed this year, as an effort to curb debt hit home at the same time as confidence took a dent from the trade war with the US. Economists expect China to continue or expand economic policy stimulus next year, and a meeting of top leaders will focus on that topic later this week.
Xi cited the role of Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin in realising socialist modernisation. Deng’s reforms broke with the chaotic policies of his predecessor, Chairman Mao Zedong.
Tuesday’s ceremony included the awarding of medals to more than 100 individuals whom the party recognised as key contributors to the country’s development, from people involved in rural reform and poverty alleviation to China’s richest man, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, and retired NBA legend Yao Ming.
China now boasts the most dollar billionaires in the world with 620, according to Shanghai-based magazine publisher Hurun Report. But the economic transformation has not brought changes to the Communist Party-controlled political system, with the authorities harshly cracking down on the Tiananmen protests in 1989 and activists complaining of a deterioration of human rights in recent years.
“Reform and opening up let the Communist Party maintain its dictatorship and let it keep its rule from collapsing after the Cold War and survive,” Beijing-based political analyst Wu Qiang told AFP.
“I think China now is state capitalism under a one-party dictatorship, or party-run capitalism,” he said.
SECOND REFORM ?
Wu said the trade war could be a chance for China to enact more changes. “If the Communist Party is smart enough, it may transform it into the starting point of a second reform and opening up and change the role of the party and the state,” Wu said.
When the party enacted the reforms under Deng, China was still suffering from famine and was emerging from the Cultural Revolution, a period of intense social and political upheaval launched by Mao. This new “revolution” started in the countryside, where the authorities began to de-collectivise land and dismantle communes, but it quickly spread to cities.
Wary of an opposing power base in economically powerful Shanghai, Deng chose the extreme south of the country as the guinea pig for his reforms. Southern cities including Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong and was still a fishing village, were designated China’s first Special Economic Zones that became powerhouses and models for the rest of the country.
Shenzhen has become a global technological hub, with China’s Internet giant Tencent and telecoms titan Huawei choosing the city for their headquarters.
The poverty rate among the rural population dropped to 3.1 per cent last year from 97.5 per cent 40 years ago.
The Straits Times
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