Beijing (CNN) – China’s rise is a “historical inevitability” and the country will no longer be “intimidated, oppressed or subjugated” by other nations, its leader, Xi Jinping, said at an event to mark the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party on Thursday.
“Anyone who dares to try will find their head banged and bloody against a great wall of steel forged by more than 1.4 billion Chinese,” Xi added, in comments that later appeared to be softened in the government’s own English translation.
Speaking in front of a crowd of 70,000 at a highly choreographed ceremony in Tiananmen Square, Xi delivered a strongly nationalist speech in which he claimed that only the party could guarantee China’s continued stability, and any attempt to separate it from the country would fail. “Without the Communist Party, there will be no new China,” Xi said to thunderous cheers and applause.
Xi’s speech capped an occasionally rainy morning of celebrations in the capital to mark the party’s centennial, which included patriotic songs, speeches by officials and flybys by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.
The Chinese Communist Party was founded in secret in a small brick house in the former French Concession in Shanghai by around a dozen delegates, in July 1921.
Its subsequent rise and continued monopoly of power has confused its critics, as the party demonstrated its own ability to change at crucial moments and ensure the survival of its authoritarian one-party regime. Under its founder and former president, Mao Zedong, millions starved to death during prolonged periods of famine and political crisis. Today, China is the world’s second-largest economy, and some estimates suggest that it is poised to overtake the United States.
However, Thursday’s celebrations follow two turbulent years for the party, marked by perceived mishandling of the initial covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019, growing international outrage over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and the increase and subsequent repression of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Many challenges also lie ahead, from a slowing economy, an aging population and a shrinking workforce, to an increasingly united democratic West that is determined to counter China’s rise.
Speaking on Thursday, Xi, arguably the country’s most powerful leader since Mao, announced that the party had achieved its century-old goal of creating a “moderately prosperous society” in China. “We are now taking confident steps towards the second centennial goal of turning China into a great modern socialist country in all respects,” Xi said.
In his opening speech, the Chinese leader not only focused on the past, but looked to the next generation of the Communist Party, appealing to young people to “live up to the expectations of the time.”
“Chinese youth in the new era should take the consciousness of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation as their own responsibility, strengthen their ambition, backbone and confidence in being Chinese.”
Great Rejuvenation is a propaganda term often used to describe the settlement of China under the leadership of the party. Relying on the issue, Xi said that the only country under the party’s continued leadership could fulfill the “Chinese dream of great national rejuvenation.”