Xi wants China’s bigger global role after Saudi-Iran deal

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Monday for China to play a bigger role in managing world affairs after Beijing scored a diplomatic coup as it hosted talks that produced a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran to reopen relations. diplomatic.

Xi gave no details of the ruling Communist Party’s plans in a speech to China’s ceremonial legislature. But Beijing has been increasingly assertive since he took power in 2012, calling for changes at the International Monetary Fund and other entities that he says do not reflect the wishes of developing countries.

China must “actively participate in reforming and building the global governance system” and promote “global security initiatives,” said Xi, the country’s most powerful leader in decades.

That will add “positive energy to world peace and development,” Xi said.

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

The National People’s Congress cemented Xi’s dominance on Sunday by endorsing the appointment of his loyalists as prime minister and other government leaders in a once-a-decade change. Xi has sidelined potential rivals and filled the upper ranks of the ruling party with his supporters.

The new premier, Li Qiang, tried on Monday to reassure businessmen but gave no details of possible plans to improve conditions after the Xi government spent the past decade building state-owned companies that control banking, energy , steel, telecommunications and other industries.

Li’s comments echoed pledges by other Chinese leaders over the past six months to support entrepreneurs who create jobs and wealth. They have promised to ease regulations and taxes, but have given no indication that they plan to rein in state-owned companies that businessmen say are robbing them of their profits.

The ruling party will “treat enterprises of all types of ownership equally” and “support the development and growth of private enterprises,” Li said.

“Our leading cadres at all levels must sincerely care about and serve private companies,” he said.

Chinese authorities previously indicated that the antitrust and data security crackdown that wiped tens of billions of dollars off the stock value of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and other tech companies was coming to an end. But businessmen were rocked again in February when a star banker who played a leading role in technology deals disappeared. Bao Fan’s company said it was “cooperating in an investigation” but gave no details.

Li said Beijing will make job creation a priority as it tries to revive economic growth that plunged to 3% last year, the second lowest level in decades. The official growth target this year is “around 5%.”

The prime minister expressed confidence that China could cope with the reduction in its workforce. The number of potential workers aged 15-59 has fallen by more than 5% from its peak in 2011, an unusually steep decline for a middle-income country.

Li said that while China is losing its “demographic dividend” of young workers, better education means it is winning a “talent dividend.” He said some 15 million people still enter the workforce each year.

“The abundance of human resources remains China’s outstanding advantage,” he said.

Abroad, Beijing has also drawn on China’s growing weight as the world’s second-biggest economy to promote trade and construction initiatives that Washington, Tokyo, Moscow and New Delhi fear will expand their strategic influence far and wide.

These include the multi-billion dollar Belt and Road initiative to build ports, railways and other trade-related infrastructure in an arc of countries from the South Pacific through Asia to Africa and Europe. China is also promoting trade and security initiatives.

Xi’s government rattled the United States and Australia in early 2022 when it signed an agreement with the Solomon Islands that would allow Chinese navy ships and security forces to station in the South Pacific nation.

Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned Washington last week of possible “conflict and confrontation” if the United States does not change course in relations that have been strained by conflicts over Taiwan, human rights, Hong Kong , security and technology.

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

He said that before the ruling party seized power in 1949, China was “reduced to a semi-colonial, semi-feudal country, subject to intimidation by foreign countries.”

“We have finally eliminated national humiliation and the Chinese people are masters of their own destiny,” Xi said. “The Chinese nation has stood up, it has grown rich and it is getting stronger.”

Xi also called on the country to “unswervingly achieve” the goal of “national reunification,” referring to Beijing’s claim that Taiwan, the self-governing democratic island, is part of its territory and bound to unite with China, by the strength if necessary. necessary.

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