Chinese President Xi Jinping opened a critical Communist Party congress with a pledge to continue his anti-corruption campaign that has made him many powerful enemies over the past five years.
Xi’s wide-ranging speech on Wednesday kicked off the twice-a-decade congress, a week-long, mostly closed-door conclave that will culminate with the selection of a new Politburo Standing Committee that will rule China’s 1.4 billion people for the next five years.
He set out his vision as he addressed more than 2,000 delegates in Beijing’s cavernous Great Hall of the People, including 91-year-old former President Jiang Zemin.
“Through a long period of hard work, socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, this is a new historical direction in our country’s development,” Xi said in a speech carried live across the nation on state television.
China will relax market access for foreign investment and expand access to its services sector, as well as deepen market-oriented reform of its exchange rate and financial system, while at the same time strengthening state firms, he said.
China’s political system is the broadest, most genuine, and most effective way to safeguard the fundamental interests of the people, Xi said.
“We should not just mechanically copy the political systems of other countries,” he said.
Xi praised the party’s successes, particularly his high-profile anti-corruption campaign.
“The fight against corruption has formed an overwhelming posture and strengthened in development,” he said.
Xi has waged a relentless fight against deep-rooted corruption since assuming power five years ago, with more than a million officials punished and dozens of former senior officials jailed.
Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Beijing, said Xi’s speech lasted “an impressive” three and a half hours. He noted the president has not only waged war against corrupt officials, but also senior military leaders.
“His anti-corruption crusade has brought down more than 1.4 million party cadres … And the president warned today that that shake-up is not over. President Xi Jinping has made an awful lot of enemies,” said Brown.