China will not allow “sanctimonious preaching” or bullying from foreign forces, and anyone who tries “will find themselves on a collision course with a steel wall forged by 1.4 billion people”, its president, Xi Jinping, has said on the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party.
In a speech before a crowd of 70,000 in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Xi praised the ruling party for lifting China out of poverty and humiliation and pledged to expand China’s military and influence.
Standing at the Gate of Heavenly Peace above a portrait of Mao Zedong on Thursday, Xi said the era of China being bullied was “gone forever”.
“We will not accept sanctimonious preaching from those who feel they have the right to lecture us,” he said. “We have never bullied, oppressed, or subjugated the people of any other country, and we never will.”
“By the same token, we will never allow anyone to bully, oppress, or subjugate [China]. Anyone who tries will find them on a collision course with a steel wall forged by 1.4 billion people.”
His fiery statements were met with rapturous applause by the tens of thousands of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members in attendance.
The CCP wields absolute rule over 1.4 billion people and one of the world’s largest economies. But China is also an increasingly isolated member of the international community due to its human rights abuses and actions towards regional neighbours such as Taiwan, India and others who dispute China’s claims in the South China Sea. Its relations with countries like the US, Canada, and Australia – with which it is locked in bitter trade disputes – are at their lowest points in decades.
In his speech, Xi said a strong country must have a strong military to guarantee the security of the nation, and the People’s Liberation Army had made “indelible achievements”. It was a “strong pillar” for safeguarding the country and preserving national dignity, sovereignty and development interests, not just in China but in the region “and beyond”, he said.
The party must maintain “absolute leadership” over the military, which must be grown and elevated “to world-class standards”, he said.
There is increasing concern and preparation for the eventuation of military confrontation over Taiwan, likely involving the US which supplies arms to the island’s government.
In his speech, Xi reiterated longstanding pledges to “restore” Taiwan. The CCP has never ruled over Taiwan but considers it to be a breakaway province of China that must be unified, by force if necessary. Xi said this remained an “unshakeable commitment”.