China's Leader Ramps up Rhetoric of National Power On Party Centenary

Xi Jinping warns that anyone trying to 'subjugate' China will find themselves colliding with a 'great wall of steel'
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China's Leader Ramps up Rhetoric of National Power On Party Centenary Chinese President Xi Jinping (on screen) delivers a speech during the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, July 1, 2021.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which marked the centenary of its secret founding in Shanghai on Thursday, is determined to hold onto power and stand up to foreign "bullies," general secretary Xi Jinping told a mass choreographed ceremony of flag-waving crowds in Beijing, punctuated by a fighter-jet flypast.

"We must uphold the firm leadership of the party," Xi told the assembled dignitaries and hand-picked crowds.

"We Chinese ... are not intimidated by threats of force," Xi said. "We will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress, or subjugate us."

"Anyone who would attempt to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people," he said.

Xi, who removed term limits for China's highest-ranking leaders in 2018, has presided over the broadening and deepening of party control over public speech, the media, and academic debate, while expanding the high-tech surveillance of China's 1.4 billion citizens, and rolling out a nationwide campaign to encourage people to study his personal brand of political ideology.

Xi has also been inscribed into the CCP charter as a "core" leader, with political commentators observing that he appears to be emulating the political style and personality cult that flourished around late supreme leader Mao Zedong.

"We must ... uphold the core position of the general secretary on the party Central Committee and in the party as a whole, and uphold the Central Committee’s authority and its centralized, unified leadership," Xi said, to cheers from tens of thousands of spectators, who cheered, sang and waved hammer-and-sickle flags.

Xi's speech also nodded to key elements of his power base, including the People's Liberation Army (PLA), with a promise to pour more resources into military modernization.

Xi, who commands the PLA as head of the Central Military Commission, also reiterated the party's total control over China's armed forces.

"We will ... maintain the party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces [and] elevate our people’s armed forces to world-class standards," he said.

A woman takes a selfie as Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech is being broadcasted on a large screen in Beijing during celebrations of  the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, July 1, 2021. Credit: AFP
A woman takes a selfie as Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech is being broadcasted on a large screen in Beijing during celebrations of the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, July 1, 2021. Credit: AFP
Nationalism the main theme

Xi's speech also recognized the work of the CCP's outreach arm, the United Front Work Department, which has been implicated in attempts to control public discourse and infiltrate the political life of countries far beyond China's borders in recent years.

"We have constantly consolidated and developed the broadest possible united front," Xi said.

"The patriotic united front is an important means for the party to unite all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation, both at home and abroad," he said.

The centenary event, which saw unprecedented security measures and surveillance across Beijing, kicked off with a flag-raising ceremony, followed by a 100-gun salute.

Beijing political commentator Wu Qiang said that the CCP has now completely identified itself with Chinese nationalism, something it once fought against in the guise of the Kuomintang regime (1911-1949) in the wake of World War II.

"The party that was once a revolutionary party and the vanguard of the working class has now been transformed into a nationalist party," Wu said. "This was the main theme of the centenary celebration."

Wu said Xi's rhetoric around "national rejuvenation" and political civilizations was telling.

"It's reminiscent of social Darwinist theories about the clash of civilizations," he said. "That was my deepest impression from [this] celebration."

Mao Zedong was name-checked in Thursday's speech, alongside Xi's predecessors Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao. However, neither Jiang nor his former premier Zhu Rongji were present at the ceremony.

Mao's former premier Zhou Enlai, former premier Liu Shaoqi, who was deposed and persecuted under Mao, and revolution-era military commander Zhu De were also among those mentioned by Xi.

'More and more dictatorial'

Xi's speech also appeared to leave room for future ideological campaigns, a tactic frequently used by Mao to eliminate political rivals in the CCP.
"We must ... root out any elements that would harm the party’s advanced nature and purity and any viruses that would erode its health," Xi warned.
He also once more asserted the CCP's direct control over the administrations of Hong Kong and Macau, as well as claiming "unshakable commitment" to the annexation of democratic Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the CCP, nor formed part of the People's Republic of China, and which, at the time of the CCP's founding, was ruled by Japan.

"No one should underestimate the resolve, the will, and the ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Xi said.

"Long live our great, glorious, and correct party!" he said, before the band struck up The Internationale and 100,000 white doves took to the skies above Tiananmen Square.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said the island would hold onto its sovereignty in the face of growing threats to regional security from China.

"We call on [Beijing] to abandon its coercive propositions and bullying actions, and truly become a responsible party committed to regional peace," the MAC said in a statement in response to Xi's speech.

"Since the CCP took power, its one-party dictatorship has clamped down on people’s democracy and violated human rights and freedoms," it said.

"They have become more and more dictatorial at home ... while trying to interfere with the international order overseas," the statement said.

"Democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law are the core values of Taiwanese society," it said. "Our government’s determination to firmly defend national sovereignty and Taiwan’s democracy and freedom ... remains unchanged."

Xi did not mention Tibet or Xinjiang in his speech, but exile populations from those communities plan protests for July 1.

Penpa Tsering, the recently elected leader of the India-based Central Tibetan Administration exile government, said "the 100 years of the Communist Party, or the 70 years of the so-called 'liberation of Tibetan people,' is not a matter of any celebration."

"The desire of the Tibetan people for freedom to practice their own religion has not been recognized by the Chinese government," he said.

Tsering added: “China is the only country in the world who spends more on silencing dissent as internal threat than on neutralizing external threats like most other countries in the world.”

Writing on her Facebook page, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said, "As the Chinese Communist Party celebrates 100 years of existence, we can't forget the 1,000,000 Uyghurs they are imprisoning and torturing in concentration camps."

"Today is not a day to celebrate, it's a day to mourn China's victims," Haley said.

Reported by Qiao Long, Hwang Chun-mei, Chingman and Emily Chan for RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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