The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which celebrated the centennial of its secret founding in Shanghai on Thursday, is determined to maintain power and stand up to foreign “bullies,” said general secretary Xi Jinping at a mass choreographed ceremony of flag-waving crowds in Beijing, punctuated by a fighter-jet flypast.
“We must maintain the party’s firm leadership,” Xi told the assembled dignitaries and hand-picked crowds.
“We Chinese… are not afraid of threats of force,” Xi said. “We will never be bullied, oppressed, or subjugated by any foreign force.”
“Anyone attempting to do so will find themselves colliding with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people,” he said.
Xi, who removed term limits for China’s top leaders in 2018, has presided over the expansion and deepening of party control over public speech, the media, and academic debate, as well as the expansion of high-tech surveillance of China’s 1.4 billion citizens and the launch of a nationwide campaign encouraging people to study his personal brand of political ideology.
Xi has also been inscribed as a “core” leader in the CCP charter, with political commentators observing that he appears to be emulating the political style and personality cult that grew up around the late supreme leader, Mao Zedong.
“We must… uphold the core position of the general secretary on the party’s Central Committee and in the party as a whole, as well as uphold the Central Committee’s authority and its centralised, unified leadership,” Xi said, to applause from tens of thousands of people cheering, singing, and waving hammer-and-sickle flags.
Xi’s speech also alluded to key elements of his power base, such as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), by promising to invest more resources in military modernization.
Xi, who heads the Central Military Commission and commands the PLA, also reaffirmed the party’s total control over China’s armed forces.
“We will… maintain the party’s absolute command of the people’s armed forces [and] elevate our people’s armed forces to world-class standards,” he said.
Xi’s speech also acknowledged the work of the CCP’s outreach arm, the United Front Work Department, which has been implicated in recent attempts to control public discourse and infiltrate political life in countries far beyond China’s borders.
“We have constantly consolidated and developed the broadest united front possible,” Xi said.
“The patriotic united front is an important means for the party to unite all sons and daughters of the Chinese nation, both at home and abroad,” he explained.
The centenary celebration, which included unprecedented security and surveillance across Beijing, began with a flag-raising ceremony, followed by a 100-gun salute.
According to Beijing political commentator Wu Qiang, the CCP has now completely identified itself with Chinese nationalism, which it once fought against in the aftermath of World War II as the Kuomintang regime (1911-1949).
“What was once a revolutionary party and the vanguard of the working class has now become a nationalist party,” Wu explained. “This was the main theme of the centennial celebration.”
According to Wu, Xi’s rhetoric about “national rejuvenation” and political civilization was very telling.
“It’s reminiscent of social Darwinist theories about civilizational clashes,” he said. “That was the most profound impression I took away from [this] celebration.”
Mao Zedong was mentioned in Xi’s speech on Thursday, along with his predecessors, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao. However, neither Jiang nor his predecessor, Zhu Rongji, attended the ceremony.
Xi also mentioned Mao’s former premier, Zhou Enlai, former premier Liu Shaoqi, who was deposed and persecuted under Mao, and the revolution-era military commander, Zhu De.
Xi’s speech also appeared to leave room for future ideological campaigns, which Mao frequently used to eliminate political rivals within the CCP.
“We must… eliminate any elements that would harm the party’s advanced nature and purity, as well as any viruses that would erode its health,” Xi warned.
He also asserted the CCP’s direct control over the administrations of Hong Kong and Macau, as well as a “unshakeable commitment” to the annexation of democratic Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the CCP, nor formed part of the People’s Republic of China, and was ruled by Japan at the time of the CCP’s founding.
“No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s resolve, will, and ability to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi said.
“Long live our great, glorious, and correct party!” he exclaimed as the band played The Internationale and 100,000 white doves flew over Tiananmen Square.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) stated that the island would maintain its sovereignty in the face of growing Chinese threats to regional security.
“We call on [Beijing] to abandon its coercive propositions and bullying actions, and to truly become a responsible party committed to regional peace,” the MAC said in response to Xi’s speech.
“Since the CCP came to power, its one-party dictatorship has stifled people’s democracy and violated human rights and freedoms,” the report said.
“They have become increasingly dictatorial at home… while attempting to undermine the international order abroad,” the statement said.
“Democracy, freedom, human rights, and the rule of law are the core values of Taiwanese society,” the statement stated. “Our government’s determination to tenaciously defend national sovereignty, as well as Taiwan’s democracy and freedom… remains unwavering.”
Xi did not mention Tibet or Xinjiang in his speech, but exiled residents from those areas have planned protests for July 1.
Penpa Tsering, the recently elected leader of the Central Tibetan Administration exile government based in India, stated that “the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party, or the 70th anniversary of the so-called ‘liberation of the Tibetan people,’ is not a cause for celebration.”
“The Chinese government has not recognised the Tibetan people’s desire for freedom to practise their own religion,” he said.
Tsering went on to say, “China is the only country in the world that spends more on silencing dissent as an internal threat than on neutralising external threats, as most other countries do.”
Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley stated on her Facebook page, “As the Chinese Communist Party celebrates 100 years of existence, we can’t forget the 1,000,000 Uyghurs they are imprisoning and torturing in concentration camps.”