Sun. Nov 28th, 2021

Chinese leader

Xi Jinping

marked his ruling Communist Party’s 100th anniversary with rousing appeals for national unity and defiance against foreign pressure, a rallying cry for one-party rule aimed at reinforcing his authority for years to come.

Addressing a crowd of thousands gathered Thursday at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Mr. Xi struck strident tones in recounting the party’s successes in surmounting challenges at home and abroad—from eliminating rural poverty to resisting imperialist aggression. He insisted that China has irreversibly emerged from past humiliation by foreign powers into an era of pride and prosperity.

The Chinese people “will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress, or enslave us,” Mr. Xi said, dressed in a gray Mao suit atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace. “Anyone who tries to do so shall be battered and bloodied from colliding with a great wall of steel forged by more than 1.4 billion Chinese people using flesh and blood,” he said, drawing cheers and applause.

The centennial celebrations help Mr. Xi showcase his achievements as he confronts a sluggish domestic economy, frosty ties with the U.S. and other Western powers, and China’s souring international image. Officials have also used the grandiose festivities to underscore Mr. Xi’s clout as he prepares for a twice-a-decade party congress next year where he is expected to claim a third term as party chief and pick new lieutenants.

State media have echoed Mr. Xi’s messaging while saturating airwaves and newsprint with pro-party publicity. In a Thursday editorial, the party’s official mouthpiece, People’s Daily, called on the party’s 95 million members and the Chinese people to unite more closely around Mr. Xi’s leadership in striving to make China a rich, advanced and truly global power by 2049, the 100th anniversary of Communist rule.

At the Chinese Communist Party’s centennial celebration, President Xi Jinping called for defiance against foreign pressure. As China challenges the U.S.’s leadership—from AI to defense—WSJ’s Jonathan Cheng looks at what’s next for the country. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP

In his speech, Mr. Xi offered little in the way of new policies and mainly restated his priorities, such as fighting corruption, strengthening the military and seeking unification with the democratically self-ruled island of Taiwan. He also offered assurances that China wants to be a peaceful and positive contributor to the global order, countering criticism of what Western governments have called Beijing’s abrasive diplomacy.

While Mr. Xi made no mention of U.S.-led denunciations of Beijing’s industrial policies and suppression of civil liberties in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, he signaled his defiance to such criticism by invoking patriotic language from past speeches. He insisted that China alone would decide its path and brook no foreign meddling in its affairs.

The Communist Party and the Chinese people “welcome all helpful suggestions and constructive criticism,” Mr. Xi said. “But we won’t accept sanctimonious lectures from self-styled preachers.”

In the months before July 1, the party’s designated anniversary date, Mr. Xi directed a nationwide campaign to promote the party’s past glories. Patriotic slogans and floral arrangements have sprung up around Beijing and other cities, and authorities are releasing new movies and television series that dramatize the party’s revolutionary history.

The celebrations culminated in Thursday’s ceremony, where honor guards, military musicians, youthful chorists and thousands of flag-waving guests provided pomp and circumstance for the occasion.

The proceedings, which stretched close to two hours, kicked off with choral renditions of patriotic songs such as “Without the Communist Party, There Would be No New China” and featured a flypast by military helicopters and jets, including China’s J-20 stealth fighter. A phalanx of 56 artillery guns, a nod to China’s 56 officially recognized ethnic groups, fired a 100-shot salute to the party.

Former leader

Hu Jintao

and other retired party elders attended the ceremony, though 94-year-old

Jiang Zemin,

who was the party’s general secretary from 1989 to 2002, was absent. The health of Mr. Jiang’s health has long been the subject of speculation in China.

Members of a band representing the People’s Liberation Army play at the CCP’s 100th anniversary ceremony in Beijing on Thursday.



Photo:

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The festivities spilled onto Chinese social media, where only one of the top 50 trending topics on the Twitter-like Weibo platform on Thursday morning wasn’t related to the party centenary. On the video-streaming site Douyin, a video showing a girl who used red chili peppers to form a party flag drew nearly seven million views.

Leading Chinese entrepreneurs also took the opportunity to showcase their loyalty to the party amid government efforts to rein in some of the countries’ largest tech companies.

Wang Xing,

the chief executive of delivery giant Meituan, who sparked a social-media furor in May by posting an ancient poem that some readers interpreted as criticism of Mr. Xi, appeared in state-media footage showing the crowd on Tiananmen Square. China launched an antitrust investigation into Meituan in April.

The Chinese Communist Party “always represents the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people,” Mr. Xi said, not privileged groups or special interests.

A crowd listens to Xi Jinping speak in Beijing on Thursday.



Photo:

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Xi Jinping’s China

Read more articles on China’s politics, as selected by editors.

On Thursday, meanwhile, Hong Kong marked the anniversary of its handover to China from the U.K. in a starkly different way from years past. A year after Beijing imposed a national security law on the city to stifle dissent, the annual boisterous and large pro-democracy march that took place annually on July 1 was replaced by a heavy police presence and proud displays of the Chinese flag.

Police officers put Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, where large crowds of protesters traditionally gather—as well as its surrounding areas—on lockdown. Tension in the streets rose as officers searched and detained pedestrians, at times laying out their belongings on the ground. Some who made pro-protest hand gestures or held up signs were also led away by the police.

Write to Chun Han Wong at chunhan.wong@wsj.com and Keith Zhai at keith.zhai@wsj.com

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