China's President Xi Jinping wants his country at the forefront of world politics, and he is not afraid to say so.
The strongman leader took the stage for more than three hours at the opening of the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist party. He asserted to China's growing global dominance, and promised more was in store for the country. Xi also gave a possible sign of things to come, as many experts believe he will use the week-long meeting further secure his power over Chinese politics.
Xi declared China has entered a "new era" in which it must "take center stage in the world." He addressed a multitude of topics during the speech, ranging from anti-corruption efforts to world affairs. But most importantly, he used the opportunity to supplant is power as the core of China's Communist party.
The message was one of absolute unity behind the party, which Xi said will dominate all aspects of life in China. Any hope of Democratic reform was quickly dashed, as Xi promised China would not be mirroring foreign powers or systems. Communism, with Chinese characteristics, is here to say, he declared. It was a less than subtle jab at the West, as Xi noted China's system
Following his unity theme, Xi also denounced independence movements in places like Taiwan and Hong Kong.
"We will not tolerate anyone, using any means, at any time to separate one inch of land from China," he warned. "Blood is thicker than water."
The Chinese government is unpopular in both islands, which led to Xi calling for a propaganda campaign to strengthen support for the party. Xi's denouncement was received with raucous applause from the crowd of party delegates.
"Uncle Xi," as he has become known to some in China, also plans to continue to his popular anti-corruption campaign. He has claimed to have rooted out 1 million corrupt officials since starting the initiative. The move was a double-win for Xi, as corruption had become a major concern among the citizenry as he was first taking office in 2012. It also gives him a convenient method to remove his political rivals.
Xi also addressed China's slight economic downturn and rising home costs, the latter of which has made it difficult for poorer citizens to live in China's remarkably expensive metropolises. Rampant real estate speculation has also raised concerns of a possible bubble bursting in the near future which could spark a financial crisis similar to what was seen in 2008, though possibly much more severe.
Approximately 2,300 hand-picked delegates attended the event. The Congress meets every five years to determine China's top leadership, though the actual agenda of the week-long meeting is largely a mystery. That said, it is widely believed that Xi will use the event to secure his dominance in Chinese politics for the next five years. Analysts and experts are also watching closely to see who he surrounds himself with going forward. Xi's cult of personality and quest for power in China's politics have drawn some to compare him to Mao Zedong, the founder of Communist China. This year's congress will likely determine whether or not he makes good on the comparison.