Jun 19, 2024
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Xi Jinping celebrates China’s rising power — and his own

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HARI SREENIVASAN: President Xi Jinping opened China’s twice-per-decade Communist Party Congress today with a lengthy list of his achievements during his first five-year term, and his vision of where he hopes to take his nation.

But beyond the words, Xi is asserting power like no Chinese leader in decades.

William Brangham reports.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The applause, the music, it was a reception befitting the commanding role that Xi Jinping has taken since being named party leader five years ago.

He opened today’s proceedings by hailing reforms he’s put in place, and proclaiming a — quote — “new era for China.”

PRESIDENT XI JINPING, China (through interpreter): The Chinese nation has realized a great leap, from declining in modern history to twisting its fate fundamentally and continuously moving to prosperity.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Over 3.5 hours, Xi laid out his vision to shape the nation of 1.4 billion people into what he called a — quote — “great modern socialist country” over the next three decades.

PRESIDENT XI JINPING (through interpreter): Achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will be no walk in the park, and it will take more than drumbeating and gong-clanging to get there. The whole party must be prepared to make more arduous, strenuous efforts.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Susan Shirk is chair of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California, San Diego.

SUSAN SHIRK, University of California, San Diego: Xi Jinping has a vision of China’s role in the world that is much more ambitious than anything we have seen before, talking about China kind of moving toward the center of the world and having a lot more influence than it did before.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In his address, Xi largely ignored the question of political reforms in China, and he didn’t mention President Trump or North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

But in a rare move, he did acknowledge that with global demand weakening, there were challenges facing China’s export-driven economy.

PRESIDENT XI JINPING (through interpreter):  While China’s overall productive forces have significantly improved and in many areas our production capacity leads the world, the more prominent problem is that our development is unbalanced and inadequate.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Xi was one of the first foreign leaders to meet with President Trump.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The relationship developed by President Xi and myself, I think, is outstanding.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That was decidedly warmer than Mr. Trump’s past criticism of China and its economic and trade policies.

But other U.S. officials are more critical of Beijing’s actions.

REX TILLERSON, Secretary of State: China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsibly.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today criticized China’s aggressive displays of economic and military power, particularly its expansion on man-made islands in the South China Sea.

REX TILLERSON: We will not shrink from China’s challenges to the rules-based order, and where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries and disadvantages the U.S. and our friends.

SUSAN SHIRK: I think there are things to worry about in Chinese foreign policy that are mostly related to these maritime sovereignty issues and to a kind of bullying in Asia, but the global ambition could turn out to be positive.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Susan Shirk says China has filled a vacuum left by the United States’ withdrawal from global agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate accords.

Perhaps the most important thing to watch for in the next few days is who Xi establishes as his likely successor.

SUSAN SHIRK: That is why there is a lot of speculation now that he may be trying, much like Putin, to stay on beyond his normal term or to rule behind the scenes even after he retires.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: President Trump will be traveling to Beijing to meet Xi next month.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.

The post Xi Jinping celebrates China’s rising power — and his own appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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