China's leadership reshuffle 2017
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President Xi Jinping speaks during the opening of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Photo: REUTERS

7 things you need to know about Xi Jinping’s vision of a ‘new era’ for China

President Xi Jinping has outlined his vision for the next five years of development in China as the Communist Party’s congress opened in Beijing on Wednesday.

During a 3½-hour long speech, Xi said the internal and external situations facing China were undergoing complicated changes which the party needed to address.

He vowed to step up ideological guidance within the party, strengthen its anti-corruption campaign, retain the government’s grip on Hong Kong and Macau, and oppose any moves towards independence in Taiwan.

Here are the major takeaways of his report:

1. A new name for Xi’s political philosophy

Xi said China has formed “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era”. The idea will be the guiding principle for the country’s development in the coming years.

The slogan was released amid speculation about how Xi’s political thought would be enshrined into the party’s constitution. There are 14 elements behind the concept, with one key idea being that the party should lead in every aspect of life in China.

Xi said the dream of national rejuvenation would only be a fantasy without the leadership of China’s Communist Party. The party should lead in all areas and the authority of the party central leadership should be respected, he said. Cadres should keep in line with the party leadership, while the party should tighten its lead on ideological work.

“The party resolutely opposes all attempts that will weaken, distort or reject the leadership of the party and the implementation of socialism,” he said.

He said a “principal contradiction” had emerged in Chinese society because of uneven development and the public’s demand for a better life.

A national flag-raising ceremony is held in Shijiazhuang, capital of north China's Hebei province. Flag-raising ceremonies were held across China to celebrate the opening of the party congress. Photo: Xinhua

2. Becoming a nation with leading, global influence by 2050

Xi laid out some ambitious targets for the next 30 years and more. The first batch should be achieved from 2020 to 2035, Xi said. China will be a top ranked innovative nation by 2035 with a large middle-income population and narrower wealth gap. China’s soft power should be boosted, Xi said. From 2035 to 2050, China should become a nation with pioneering global influence.

3. Keeping up with the “irreversible” momentum of anti-corruption campaign and maintaining the rule by law

China will set up a leading group for comprehensive rule by law. Xi repeatedly talked about the concept during his speech and vowed the party and the government would rule the country under the law and through public oversight. No one would be able to put themselves above the law, he said.

He added that China must watch out for any attempt to copy Western-style democracy.

Xi also issued a warning to delegates at the Great Hall of the People on corruption, saying China insists on “zero tolerance” of graft. He said the government has been unswerving in “fighting tigers, destroying flies and hunting down foxes”, referring to the government’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign.

He said a national supervision law would be formulated and shuanggui – a party disciplinary practice – would be replaced.

The view inside the Great Hall of the People as President Xi gave his speech. Photo: EPA

4. Protecting national sovereignty

China’s capability to deal with national security should be boosted as the nation will resolutely protect its sovereignty and interests.

Xi said China has made a “historical breakthrough” in national defence and military reform. The navy has protected the nation’s maritime interest and its army rapidly upgraded its weaponry.

For the coming years, China will continue pushing for integration between the civilian and the military sector. The People’s Liberation Army should be a “world class” force by 2050.

China also opposes separatism under the guise of religion or extremist thought, Xi said.

5. Upholding central government authority over Hong Kong and Macau and opposing Taiwan independence

Xi said the “one country, two systems” principle will not be changed nor distorted in Hong Kong. The central government’s jurisdiction over the two Special Administrative Regions, which also includes Macau, should not be shaken, he said.

On Taiwan, Xi said Beijing has properly handled the changing situation facing the island and will continue to resolutely oppose any move to seek independence for Taiwan.

6. Creating a level playing field for foreign businesses

Countering foreign diplomats and business concerns that the government was blocking overseas investment, Xi said China would give equal treatment to all businesses. “The China which has opened up will not close, but will open wider and wider,” he said.

China’s GDP has increased from 54 trillion yuan (US$8.2 trillion) five years ago to 80 trillion yuan and the government would aim for growth that is of higher quality and sustainable, he said.

7. Protecting the public interest

Fighting poverty was crucial for China to become a moderately prosperous society, Xi said. All provinces which are under the poverty line should climb above that threshold by 2020.

He also pledged to create more jobs for college graduates and migrant workers.

Addressing concerns over rising property prices, Xi said houses were for people to live in, not for speculation.