Analysis. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s three-and-a-half-hour speech on Wednesday will be seen as a turning point in Chinese history. It included optimism — and a warning to opponents.

Xi imagines a ‘new era’ for China, wealthier and less isolated

As we all know, the Revolution is not a gala dinner, and now Xi Jinping reminds us that reforming the country “is not like a walk in the park.”

With his usual rhetorical verve, rich in cultural references, Xi Jinping, in his three-and-a-half hour opening speech for the Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, set out in clear terms the doctrine that has emerged from his five years in power. Through the close political control of Chinese society by the Party, the defense from external influences and the great spirit of the Chinese people, China will enter a “new era” in which socialism with Chinese traits will be pushed to the maximum, achieving moderate prosperity for the population and a role of global relevance for the country.

On Wednesday, Xi, secretary of the Chinese Communist Party since 2012 and President of the People’s Republic from 2013, inaugurated the proceedings of the 19th Congress of the Communist Party, articulating the successes achieved over the past five years and launching the country on a course aimed directly at 2050, a year after the centenary of the birth of the People’s China.

At that point, said Xi in his long speech, China will be a large, modern socialist nation. The two main points for achieving this are extremely important both for understanding “Xi Jinping Thought” as well as China’s future trend of development. The first point to be pursued will be that which will allow the achievement of a moderately prosperous society.

This means that China, despite its internal contradictions from our perspective, continues on a domestic policy path aimed at broadening social equality by improving the living conditions of the entire population. Bringing out the paradoxes inherent in Xi’s words, we could imagine such a future direction: a country made up of an elite and the vast majority of the population, with the latter counted among the “middle class.”

To achieve this, the focus will be on the rural environment. It is here that millions of poor people can still be found in China, in social pockets left behind because of the defects inherent in the extraordinary development in recent years, defects that the Chinese leadership knows well.

Urbanization and the push for building projects and major works have left behind entire segments of the population which in practical terms cannot even dream of seeing such buildings, not to mention getting to live in them, make them their own, or see them as the center of their lives.

It is no coincidence that Tuo Zhen, spokesman for the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party, remarked that “the key to building a moderately prosperous society lies in the rural population. The real challenge lies in raising the population of the most deprived rural areas of the country up from poverty.”

Since coming into office, said the spokesman, Xi has placed the fight against poverty at the top of the party’s agenda, “presiding over 17 important meetings and ordering 25 studies on the subject.” Between the end of 2012 and the end of last year, the number of Chinese citizens living in poverty, according to official data, fell from 98.9 million to 43.3 million.

The second cornerstone of the “new era” of the modern and socialist China as conceived by Xi is, no doubt, foreign policy. Xi promised a country open to foreign investment, as he has always stressed, but also mentioned the need to modernize the armed forces, where there is a real gap between China and the U.S. He reiterated that China will be playing a much more central role than in the past on the international stage.

There were some caveats. Xi noted that “we have to say clearly that there are still elements of inadequacy in our work, and many challenges to come.”

China, the president said, is at a “preliminary stage” of socialism, and the country is “in many ways” still developing. Finally, Xi sent a warning to opponents, expressing “firm opposition” to anyone who might undermine the unity of the country and, above all, his own leadership: “We must do more to protect the interests of the people, and firmly oppose any initiative that could harm them or alienate the Party from the people.”

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