HONG KONG — President Xi Jinping warned of “severe” challenges while laying out a road map to turn China into a leading global power by 2050, as he kicked off a twice-a-decade party gathering expected to cement his influence into the next decade.
In a speech that ran for more than three hours on Wednesday, Xi declared victory over “many difficult, long overdue problems” since he took power in 2012. He said China would continue opening its doors to foreign businesses, defend against systemic risks, deepen state-run enterprise reform, strengthen financial sector regulation and better coordinate fiscal and monetary policy.
“Right now both China and the world are in the midst of profound and complex changes,” Xi said. “China is still in an important period of strategic opportunity for development. The prospects are bright, but the challenges are severe.”
Investors are watching to see whether Xi will push through tough reforms as the world’s second-largest economy faces structural challenges over the next five years. At the same time, he’s seeking to boost China’s global clout with infrastructure spending while seeking to avoid a conflict with President Trump over North Korea.
Xi’s speech — officially known as the party work report, China’s most important policy document — included sections on politics, the economy, national defense, foreign policy, and Hong Kong and Taiwan. He reiterated the goal of attaining “moderately prosperous society” by 2020, which has helped drive economic policy over the past five years.
Xi also laid out an ambitious plan to make China a “great modern socialist country” in the following 30 years — part of what he has called the “Chinese dream.” By 2050, he said, the party would be near the goal of achieving a “beautiful China” with the rule of law, innovative companies, a clean environment, an expanding middle class, adequate public transportation and reduced disparities between urban and rural areas.
“Chinese people will enjoy greater happiness and well-being, and the Chinese nation will stand taller and firmer in the world,” Xi said of his vision for 2050.
Xi painted China’s governance system as a unique development model while hailing signature policies like his Belt-and-Road infrastructure initiative and anti-corruption campaign, which has ensnared some 1 million officials since 2012 and sidelined many of his would-be rivals.
Xi affirmed the Communist Party’s supremacy and said that China shouldn’t copy the political systems of foreign nations, repeatedly emphasizing that the country had entered a “new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” He called for the rejection of the “Cold War mentality” in addressing global challenges, and said China would never seek global hegemony.
Xi said the Communist Party will strive to fully transform the People’s Liberation Army into one the world’s top militaries by 2050, and emphasized the need to modernize its combat capability.
“A military is built to fight,” he said.
Throughout the week, more than 2,000 delegates to 19th Party Congress will discuss and approve Xi’s report and revisions to the party charter. They will also appoint a new Central Committee, which will elect the party’s Politburo and its Standing Committee — China’s most powerful body — the day after the congress ends on Oct. 24.
Xi is set to emerge as one of the country’s top three leaders along with Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong, who founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949. He’ll be looking to secure a majority of allies on the new Standing Committee, which may potentially include possible successors who could rule until 2032.