China to get more open, more powerful, says president

Beijing: Chinese president Xi Jinping has sought to downplay China’s image as an emerging superpower, setting out a 30-year timeframe for the country to become a “global leader” with international influence.
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He said it would do so without “mechanically copying” western political systems.

In a three-hour long opening report to the twice-a-decade meeting of the Chinese Communist Party, Mr Xi said China’s markets would nonetheless continue to open up to foreign investors, an apparent response to criticism from Donald Trump and the European Union about trade barriers.

China would become “more and more open” and “significantly ease market access, further open the service sector, and protect the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors”.

The report flagged the possibility of China also opening free trade ports.

Setting out the direction for the Communist Party for the next five years, on a stage draped in red banners and the golden hammer and sickle, Mr Xi cast China as a developing nation, but said Chinese socialism had entered a “new era”.

China had met the basic needs of its people, he said, and would next work to become a “great modern socialist country” using a road map that schedules its arrival as a global leader in innovation by 2035. Economic strength and rule of law would be in place by this deadline, he said.

A second phase, of becoming a global leader in “national strength and international influence” would take until 2050.

Mr Xi said China’s economy was transitioning from rapid growth to a focus on high quality development.

Advanced manufacturing, internet, big data and artificial intelligence would be integrated into the “real economy”.

State-owned enterprises, which had traditionally dominated Chinese production, would see further reform, and China would pursue “innovative, coordinated, green and open development”.

In resource allocation, the market would play the decisive role, and the government must play its role better, the president and Communist Party general secretary said.

He insisted that China had been in the driving seat of the global fight against climate change, and promised a “revolution in energy production” by building an energy sector that was “clean, low carbon, safe and efficient” with new regulatory agencies.

Mr Xi described the role of a modernising Chinese military as defensive in nature: “No one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests … China will never seek hegemony or engage in expansion.”

Among the major achievements of China over the past five years under his leadership, the report listed the “steady progress” of construction of islands in the South China Sea.

China’s island building and naval presence there have been ruled illegal by The Hague tribunal.

On another key point of what the Chinese see as national sovereignty, Mr Xi issued a warning against Taiwan’s independence “in any form”.

A new theory would be added to the Communist Party constitution: “The Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”.

Mr Xi said there was a contradiction between unbalanced development and people’s growing need for a better life, and the policy emphasised the need to deepen reform, major country diplomacy, and law based governance.

The anti corruption campaign had cut like a blade and achieved the goal of becoming a deterrent to corruption, but would continue.

The new leadership team of seven members of the Politburo standing committee will be revealed at the end of the Communist Party’s national congress meeting in seven days.

n Foreign Minister Julie Bishop responded after the speech yesterday, saying that “power is being consolidated around President Xi Jinping in perhaps unprecedented ways”.

As China’s global power grows, Ms Bishop also urged Mr Xi’s government to be a “promoter and supporter of the international rules-based system that has enabled China’s economic rise”.

“I note the President is speaking about socialism with Chinese characteristics, a form of state capitalism, and I think we’ll see a greater intensity and focus on state-owned enterprises,” she said.

In comments that seemed at odds to the thrust of the Chinese president’s speech, Ms Bishop told Sky News she thought “there will be a greater concentration of power within the state-owned enterprises,” giving rise to concern about moves away from “open, free, transparent, accountable” markets.

The Foreign Minister labelled Chinese GDP growth “remarkable but we are concerned to ensure that China remains a free trading nation”.

– with Fergus Hunter