Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned that anyone who tries to "bully" China will face "broken heads and bloodshed". Xi's defiant speech on Thursday hailing the country's rise elicited loud cheers from a carefully chosen crowd at a celebration of the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party.
In unusually forceful language, Xi appeared to be hitting back at the US and others who have criticised the rising power’s trade and technology polices, military expansion and human rights record.
In an hour-long speech, the Chinese leader also said the nation must stick to its one-party rule, emphasising the role of the Communist Party in lifting China to global prominence.
The rally — which featured a military flyover and people waving Chinese flags and singing patriotic songs — in some ways recalled the mass events held by Mao Zedong, communist China’s founding leader.
Xi even wore a gry buttoned-up suit like the ones favoured by Mao and spoke from the same balcony atop Tiananmen Gate where the revolutionary leader declared the start of communist rule in 1949. More than 70,000 people attended Thursday's ceremony, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Xi, who heads the party and is thought to be considering a third term starting next year, received the biggest applause when he said the party had restored China’s dignity after decades of subjugation to Western powers and Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries. Communism had turned China into the world’s second largest economy in recent decades.
“The Chinese people will absolutely not allow any foreign force to bully, oppress or enslave us and anyone who attempts to do so will face broken heads and bloodshed in front of the iron Great Wall of the 1.4 billion Chinese people,” said Xi, who has eliminated limits on his time in office, prompting speculation that he could rule for life, as Mao did.
Meanwhile, in what is probably the most influential bullhorn in China's propaganda machine, the 1 July editorial of the People's Daily, Xi Jinping's predecessors Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping are each mentioned only once, while Xi himself gets seven quotes, and "Marxism" is put in the limelight 13 times. The 1 July home page of the People's Daily also highlights a link to a page stressing the "study of Party history" - but a carefully edited version of that history, where all negative references to the CCP or Xi's rule have been deleted.
In bombastic language, the newspaper celebrates the party's centenary, boasting that the CCP is "the world's largest Marxist ruling party, which has been in power in a socialist country for more than 70 years and has more than 95 million members, has received the broadest support and support from more than 1.4 billion Chinese people."
It admits that the 100-year-long road from rags to riches was reached by "passing thousands of rivers and mountains through struggle and overcoming obstacles" but no mention is made of political disasters like the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution, which cost the lives of millions of people as a direct result of CCP mismanagement. The more recent 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, which marked the last major turning point within CCP history, is not mentioned either.