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Xi Jinping Calls for Increased Defense Capability and a Greater Role in Global Diplomacy

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Chinese President Xi Jinping said he wants to turn the Chinese army into a “great wall of steel,” as he spoke on the last day of this year’s People’s Congress session.

“We should comprehensively promote the modernization of national defense and military construction, and build the people’s army into a great wall of steel that effectively protects national sovereignty, security and development interests,” Xi said.

This year Congress approved a 7.2% increase in military spending, a higher proportionate increase than the planned increase in total spending.

Elsewhere in his speech, Xi addressed Beijing’s plans for “unification” with Taiwan, though he used a relatively cautious tone. He did not repeat previous statements that Beijing would not rule out the use of military force.

“We must implement the Party’s comprehensive strategy to solve the Taiwan issue in the new era, adhere to the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, actively promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations, and resolutely oppose the interference of external forces and the 3,000 delegates at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing,” the leader said. “Taiwan independence” separatist activities and unswervingly push forward the process of reunification of the motherland,” he said.

Democratic, self-ruled Taiwan, never part of the People’s Republic of China, has had an independent government since 1949, but Beijing considers the island of 23 million people a splinter part of its territory.

After Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, there were growing concerns that China might also use military force in its longstanding territorial claim to Taiwan.

bigger role

Xi also called on China to play a greater role in managing global affairs after Beijing scored a diplomatic coup as host to talks that resulted in an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran to restore diplomatic relations.

Xi, the country’s most powerful leader in decades, said China should “actively participate in the reform and construction of the global governance system” and promote “global security initiatives”.

This will add “positive energy for world peace and development,” Xi said.

On Monday, he also called for faster technological development and more self-reliance in a speech laden with nationalist jargon. He referred eight times to “national rejuvenation,” or restoring China to its rightful place as an economic, cultural, and political leader.

Before the ruling party came to power in 1949, he said, “China had turned into a semi-colonial, semi-feudal country, subject to bullying by foreign countries.”

“We have finally removed the national humiliation, and the Chinese people are the master of their own destiny,” Xi said. “The Chinese nation has risen, become rich, and become strong.”

Earlier on Friday, Xi was appointed for another term at the ceremonial presidency after breaking with tradition in October and giving himself a third five-year term as general secretary of the ruling party, putting himself on track to become leader for life.

China’s National People’s Congress on Sunday cemented Xi’s dominance by approving the appointment of his loyalists as prime minister and other government leaders in a once-in-a-decade change. Xi sidelined potential rivals and pushed his supporters into the upper echelons of the ruling party.

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