Xi JinPing has called for China to accelerate its military capabilities during a speech at the Communist Party's national congress.
In a two hour address in front of 2,300 of the party's top officials, Xi touted national security, boasted about the country's full control over Hong Kong and reiterated its right to forcefully reclaim Taiwan.
The 69-year-old leader is widely expected to claim a third leadership term at the conclusion of the week-long congress that began on Sunday morning, cementing his place as China's most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong.
The issue of "security" was front and centre during Xi's opening speech at the congress – which some western observers believe will put the country "on the path to war".
In the full version of the address, the Chinese leader referenced "security" and "safety" 89 times, compared to 55 times in 2017, the last time the party held its national congress, according to Reuters.
"We must strengthen our sense of hardship, adhere to the bottom-line thinking, be prepared for danger in times of peace, prepare for a rainy day, and be ready to withstand major tests of high winds and high waves," he told the gathered delegates.
Xi called for strengthening the ability to maintain national security, ensuring food and energy supplies, securing supply chains, improving the ability to deal with disasters and protecting personal information.
China will never renounce the right to use force in its effort to take control of Taiwan but will strive for a peaceful resolution, Xi said.
"Resolving the Taiwan issue is the Chinese people's own business, and it up to the Chinese people to decide."
Speaking to the younger generation, Xi said the Communist Party must come first.
"Young people, you should steadfastly follow the Party and its guidance....aim high but stay grounded," he said.
This is the Xinjiang women's basketball team, studiously taking notes. pic.twitter.com/ZAyHwROupB
— Mark Dreyer (@DreyerChina) October 16, 2022
Xi's message: China in 'war-like state'
The Chinese president described the previous five years since the last party congress as "extremely uncommon and abnormal" but praised the party for its handling of the Covid pandemic which is believed to have originated in the country.
Xi has consolidated his grip on power and moved the country in an increasingly authoritarian direction, prioritising security, a stronger military, a more assertive diplomacy and state control of the economy in the name of "common prosperity".
Speaking to Reuters, Alfred Wu, associate professor at the National University of Singapore, said as economic growth has slowed, Xi has tried to switch the legitimacy of the party's tight control to the basis of national security.
"His narrative is China faces many dangers, the country is in a war-like state, figuratively, and he is the saviour. With this narrative, he can get people to unite around him," he said.
Image from Chinese congress lights up social media
Striking images from the event were quick to garner a response on western social media.
With Xi strengthening his grip on power (in part under the guise of purging corruption), photos of him sitting on stage by himself in front of the large gathering were described as "pretty extraordinary".
Despite similar scenes under previous Chinese leaders, many online thought it spoke volumes about the situation with some likening it to 'cult of personality' dictatorships seen in North Korea.
"This is what tyranny looks like," remarked one person.
Stunning photos of Xi Jinping alone on stage, kicking off a week of festivities around the coronation for his unprecedented third term
This is what tyranny looks like 🇨🇳 pic.twitter.com/LWr2Mvfy9c
— Alex Gladstein 🌋 ⚡ (@gladstein) October 15, 2022
— Jennifer Zeng 曾錚 (@jenniferzeng97) October 16, 2022
The solo leader on the stage though isn’t a Xi thing - Appears to be a convention for the preparation meeting before the Congress. Here’s Hu Jintao rolling solo back in 2012: pic.twitter.com/wMRHdq12U7
— Bill Birtles (@billbirtles) October 15, 2022
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