New Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) will fight for a “great renaissance of the Chinese nation,” he said yesterday as the world’s most populous country completed its once-in-a-decade power transition.
In his first speech as head of state, Xi called for “the continued realization of the great renaissance of the Chinese nation and the Chinese dream,” laying out a vision of a stronger military and ever-higher living standards.
The 25-minute address closed a parliament meeting that named Xi as head of state and Li Keqiang (李克強) as premier, four months after the pair took the top two posts in the Chinese Communist Party — the real source of their power.
Both Xi and Li stuck to the party’s long-held consensus on the need for economic reforms to ensure growth, while increasing military power and avoiding political change that could threaten its grip on power.
Analysts said Xi’s concept of a “great renaissance” was a slogan designed to have broad appeal, without any firm commitments to specific reforms.
Xi has close ties to China’s expanding military — which put its first aircraft carrier into service last year — and he called for the armed forces to strengthen their ability to “win battles.”
Beijing is embroiled in a bitter territorial row with Japan over islands in the East China Sea, and with neighboring nations over claims to the South China Sea. Tensions with the US have also increased over reports of army-organized hacking.
Li sought to play down such conflicts in a press conference, saying that Beijing would not “seek hegemony” as it became stronger and denying allegations that China engages in hacking.
Li called the accusations “groundless,” days after US President Barack Obama weighed in on the issue. He said China’s relationship with Washington was vital and their mutual interests outweighed their differences.
“Conflicts between big powers are not inevitable,” Li said.
Li, now in charge of the day-to-day running of the government, said that “maintaining sustainable economic growth,” with an annual GDP increase of about 7.5 percent over the coming decade, would be his administration’s top priority.
However, ensuring such a performance would be difficult, he said. China recorded its slowest growth for more than a decade last year amid weakened demand in key export markets.
“What the market can do, we should release more to the market,” he said without giving details of specific economic reforms.
Both leaders reiterated the party’s repeated pledges to fight corruption, with Li saying that the government had an “unshakable resolve” to do so.
“Since we have chosen public service, we should give up all thought of making money,” the premier said.
Speaking in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Xi stressed continuity with previous Chinese leaders and thanked outgoing president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), who stood and bowed as China completed the transition of its top leaders.
Neither Xi nor Li mentioned systematic political reform, but Li said China would release a plan for unspecified changes to its controversial “re-education” labor camp system, in which people can be incarcerated for up to four years without trial.
He also promised to reduce the number of government employees as part of an anti-waste drive, again without giving details.
“The tone is definitely conservative,” Joseph Cheng (鄭宇碩), a China politics expert at Hong Kong’s City University, said of Xi’s speech. “It is difficult to anticipate serious political reforms in the near future. What we see here is a very balanced approach not to alienate any vested interests and to continue to do something popular like combat corruption, combat lavishness and pomp and so on, and appeal to patriotism.”